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30/01/2009 No.56
Kevin Pullein
Friday 30 Jan 2009
Who will kick off in tomorrow evening's televised Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton? You might think the answer is a toss of a coin. But you could very easily be wrong.

Ladbrokes bet on which team in a televised fixture will kick off. The first surprise to some people is that they offer odds about something so trivial. The second is that they do not try to build any profit margin into those odds – these are fun bets, provided as a goodwill gesture to their customers. And the third is that the away team are always favourite, quoted at 19-20.

If you think the home team must represent value for money at 21-20, you would be wrong, however. The teams to back are the visitors. A total of 83 Premier League games have been televised in the UK this season and away teams kicked off in 46 of them – 55%.

Do you know a season-ticket holder who sits behind the goal where the most vocal home fans gather? Ask them how often their team kicks toward them in the second half. The answer, in all probability, will be nearly always. Teams prefer to kick toward their most passionate fans in the second half, sensing that the support will help them.

Law VIII of Association Football says: "At the beginning of the game, choice of ends and the kick-off shall be decided by the toss of a coin. The team winning the toss shall have the option of choice of ends or the kick-off." When home teams win the toss, they usually choose ends and the away teams kick off. But the opposite happens less often, suggesting a tacit understanding that home teams can kick in their preferred direction.

Novelty markets permit only small stakes so counter this by placing bets not just at Old Trafford but at St James' Park, the Britannia Stadium and Anfield.
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