Manager Search: How Much Do The Bookies Know?

It’s been a month now since Pep Clotet announced that he was leaving his role as Head Coach of Birmingham City. In the time since, there have been all manner of names mooted as his replacement, with the betting market changing rapidly. Do the bookies know anything that we don’t?

Birmingham City FC

As someone who has worked on the periphery of the online bookmaker sector, I’ve long held the belief that too much attention was paid to the way the “next manager” markets shift.

I talked to industry professional Sandro Di Michele about how next manager markets work.

Di Michele has over 15 years of experience in the sports and betting industry. He filled the role of Head of PR & Social Media at Sky Bet for three years before embarking on a Freelance career. He continues to work as a spokesperson for brands as well as a sports expert with multiple content providers. He also has a wealth of experience in sponsorship and commercial activity predominantly in the sports industry.

How do bookmakers create a next manager market?

Basically it starts with a database of free managers and relevant candidates all divided by club size, league and experience. Add to that those linked to specific jobs (people who have an extra link to the club) – plus the usual suspects who like to be linked to every job going.

So we as a trading team would go through that compiled list and rate each manager’s chance of getting the job and price them up accordingly.

At SkyBet, we liked to be the first to get a market out, it’s good for PR and also, as the EFL sponsor, we felt that EFL fans should be betting with us around most things for their club.

Once it is up there, it is then over to the money to dictate price changes. However, unless you are talking like a top level job, with loads of interest, press information and knowledge out there – the liquidity of the market is going to be limited. Therefore, the amount of money you can bet on the market will be restricted – and result in it not taking an awful lot of money to move a market.

Two people have big bets at 10/1 – bookmakers cut the price to see how strong people are on it – and will keep cutting the price, testing how certain the knowledge is. As the price shortens, if the money keeps coming, it shortens further until it goes odds on. If people are still backing it then it looks fairly certain to happen.

So the bookmakers don’t really have an inside track on who will be appointed?

The role of bookmaker is to set a market and to drive interest – they aren’t predicting outcomes. I was told on my day in a trading room, there’s always somebody who knows more than you do. Whether that’s fans who are really close to the situation and have their fingers on the pulse – or somebody with genuine inside knowledge.

Since the FA changed the betting regulations, inside knowledge has lessened. You used to see managerial bets coming in from the same people for the same club every 15 months when there was a managerial opening. This would usually be a kit man or similar who would be coming for his couple of hundred quid!

Watching the accounts of journalists – who are usually restricted – is another strong indicator that can help us move a market as usually they will have the contacts and pick up rumours that can be worth following.

That said, look at Alex Neil at Stoke after Rowett got sacked. He agreed the deal with Stoke, went back to Preston, they counter offered and he had a change of heart. The market had closed with him long odds on – so had to start again.

How does all this apply to the next manager market in Blues’ case?

So looking at the Blues market – which unfortunately for you Blues fans is not of high interest to the majority of punters – it a) won’t take much money to make somebody a new favourite – but b) looking at the prices, it shows that nobody really knows. Each available candidate seems to move to favouritism and then move out – usually swayed by the amount of media coverage around them. Robbie Fowler has just left his position in Australia, so is in the news – of course people will link him. Although if he gets the job, his agent has swam the Channel for him!

In short – manager markets are usually only as informed as the money that sets them – and with little information coming out from the club, there isn’t much informed money around.

It’s easy to see why I’ve always been wary about following the next manager markets as a way to work out who is coming in. It makes for nice clickbait articles to lure in readers, but I’ve always thought that it provides no substance, which is what I aim to do with this website.

With thanks to Sandro and also to his business partner and Blues fan Sam Parish who helped me to arrange this piece.