Explained – how do spreads work in football betting?

Bookmakers are forever coming up with creative ways for punters to bet on football. And while spread betting has been around for a while – how do spreads work in football betting is still a very common question. Therefore, this suggests that spread betting remains a topic that is relatively misunderstood by most punters, especially those betting on football. Why football, specifically? Well, mainly because spread betting is used so heavily in football betting, as it suits the game as a whole due to a range of factors.

These include the scoring systems used in football to determine the winner, as well as other elements such as number of goals scored in total, cards, corners, and so much more. Essentially, wherever there is an element that can be wagered on with a fixed number as a marker, there is a good chance that a spread betting market will materialize. Yet with this said, there are various complexities of spread betting.

Football Spread Bets

One level is relatively simple, and punters often use the term ‘spread betting’ synonymously with ‘handicap betting’. That’s because the two work in a very similar fashion if going down this simplified route. Yet there is another level of spread betting in football that is far more complex and, indeed, more accurate when discussing this activity. This second option no longer comes down to a right or wrong outcome for your wager. Instead, it comes down to the extent to which you are right or wrong, which is why spread betting can be so profitable, while losses can be pretty extreme at the same time. 

Nevertheless, as I work through this explanation of spreads in football betting, these key differences will become clear. So let me get the ball rolling on this topic now.

Spreads vs handicaps – a key distinction

Although I’ve given an overview of spreads in football betting above, I need to get more specific to make this explanation comprehensive. And the first base to cover relates to handicaps vs spreads. As noted above, handicaps use a static point/mark for a particular market, which is why they are different from spread bets. Sure, they use a particular spread to create the handicap market in the first place, yet they operate very differently. 

For example, a football game might have a -1.5 handicap for Chelsea to beat Sheffield United at home in the Premier League. If you take this bet and Chelsea win by 2 or more goals, you win. But if you made the same wager using a spread betting approach, the more ‘correct’ you are, meaning if Chelsea won by a margin far more than 2 goals, the more you’d win. This clearly shows a dynamic vs static approach, and it’s a key distinction between the two.

How do spreads work in football betting – the ins and outs of spread betting

There is one thing I haven’t mentioned yet for spread bets in football, and I’ve done this deliberately to avoid confusion with handicaps. This ‘thing’ is that spread bets don’t just take a dynamic approach; they also offer a ‘spread’, sometimes called a ‘range’. Working with the example above, a handicap market might give you a -1.5 marker, but a spread market might offer a range of -1.5 to -2.5. This suggests that the expected winning margin for Chelsea is two goals, on average. That’s easy enough, right? But here’s where you need to focus.

Football spread betting – a detailed example

With football spread bets, remember, there isn’t just a win/lose scenario. And for that to happen, there have to be two sides to every market – one side of winners, and one side of losers. Or, put another way, there is a ‘buy side’ and a ‘sell-side’ with spread betting in football. Switching up the example now, let’s use Chelsea vs Sheffield United again, only this time, you want to bet on the total number of goals. To keep things easy, let’s say the spread offer here is 2.8 – 3.0. 

Using your own opinion, let’s say you think that the game will have 3 or more goals, so you take the ‘buy option’ with a £10 stake per point. In this example, every goal scored over 3 would add £10 to your return. Therefore, if the match finished with 5 goals in total, your profit would be £20, as the outcome was 2 goals beyond the initial buy price. If the game finished with 6 goals, you’d get £30, and so on and so forth. See – it depends on how ‘correct’ you are as to how much you get from the wager.

However, what if the game had fewer than 3 goals, or worse – zero? In this case, if the game finished 0-0, you’d have a loss of £30, as you were wrong by 3x the stake per point. But the good news is that you wouldn’t be able to lose more than that, while the potential returns are infinite, theoretically.

Avatar of Gavin Davison
Gavin Davison

Gavin is a full-time copywriter based in the UK and has developed in-depth knowledge of the igaming world by working in the betting industry for over five years. During this time, he has written thousands of articles covering various topics, including bookmaker reviews, ‘how to’ guides, bonus comparisons and much more.