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What Does the Bolton Managerial Betting Market Mean?

During the past week, many have looked to the betting market as an indication as to who would be taking the helm on the assumption that the bookies odds determined information they had received about the likely successor.

Alan Crowhurst

Whilst historically they have proved to be an effective way of predicting appointment, there is far too much validity put on the odds and I am going to explain why that is and how they work:

The Long Game

Managerial appointments rarely happen quickly so there is often a period where there will be changes in who becomes ‘the bookies favourite' for a certain role. For example, at the moment the market opened (the sacking of Freedman), it was former caretaker manager and crucially fans' favourite Jimmy Phillips that was installed as front runner.

Now the important thing to remember here is that the bookies have preference who is selected but their single primary goal is to receive as many bets as possible whilst ensuring they are not paying out a high amount if a bet is selected by a high amount of punters.

Why Jimmy Phillips?

Bookies are not predictors, they are profit making organisations and the reason they installed Phillips as favourite was to protect them. Many Bolton fans may have thought that Bolton would look to their academy manager who is held in such high regard. With the part time appointment of Andy Turner, the likelihood of a Phillips appointment reduced and his odd became more generous.

So why does it change?

The betting market is much like the stock market as it moves with the release of public information. There have been numerous examples of this throughout the past week in the betting market for the Bolton job.

Example 1) Brian McDermott

McDermott, out of work and experienced at this level, the former Leeds United boss was on the lips of many as a possible replacement for Freedman. As a result, McDermott started with many bookmakers in single figure odds with punters having to stake much higher amounts to achieve good profitable levels

However, at the beginning of the week news emerged that McDermott had accepted a role at Arsenal to join their scouting set-up and this saw many potential monetary backers of McDermott back off and consequently his betting price or ‘stock value' drifted can now be found with Paddy Power for as high as 25/1 as betting companies try and entice punters with high odds for what would now appear to be an unlikely outcome.

Example 2) Neil Lennon

Whilst some fans thought this major coup could be possible it was deemed by many to be unrealistic as the betting market opened last Friday. However since the initial odds, as high as 33/1 with some bookmakers, the price of Lennon has now dropped to as low as 5/4 with Paddy Power at the time of writing.

This huge drop has happened without truly knowing if Bolton have been in contact with Lennon or without an actual statement from Lennon declaring interest in the job, so why have the bookies felt the need to shorten his odds so dramatically?

Public information is key in any financial market, whether if it is true or not and Neil Lennon has had two critical reports that have seen him installed as the clear ‘bookies favourite' for the Bolton job.

Firstly, at the beginning of the week, Alan Nixon who is held in high regard by many Bolton fans as a reliable source for Wanderers news, tweeted that he believed the Lennon was interested in the Bolton Wanderers job. This may (probably) triggered a surge in bets being placed on Lennon which over the week saw bookies (protecting themselves) steadily reduce his odds to around the 5/1 mark yesterday.

This reduction was despite the emergence of a lucrative offer in the Far East for Lennon which actually fuelled the speculation of Lennon interest in the Bolton job as no official comment has been made all week, which added weight to Nixon's claims that Lennon was monitoring the situation at the Macron Stadium.

It is again important to stress here that we do not ‘know' anything and the betting market is simply being dictated my ‘market speculation' a term used heavily in the stock market industry.

This morning saw the emergence of more public information as it is being widely reported that Neil Lennon has refused the role in Saudi Arabia. This has seen people consider Lennon's motive for doing so and it would appear that the betting customers overwhelming feel that he has done so in favour of the Bolton Wanderers managers role. This has seen bookmakers, such as Paddy Power react and reduce the odds available on Lennon to as little as 5/4.

What if the details are leaked?

This does happen from time-to-time but the bookmakers have systems to safeguard themselves from it. If a managerial appointment is leaked to the press, they are likely to report it immediately allowing bookmakers to suspend betting immediately whilst the claims are investigation, causing little if no damage to the bookmaker.

However, if the information is leaked to a punter then it is different. A flurry of high betting activity in isolated areas would almost certainly indicate leaked reliable information and as soon as the bookmakers security computer systems identify this they will shut down the betting market, it really is a case of blink and you will miss it!

So what can we tell from the odds?

The only thing that bookmakers odd indicate is who the betting market punters are investing into as a result of the information they have. They are a useful tool for summarising a managerial appointment market but at the end of the day they are not a prediction tool.