What is Sports Spread Betting?

sports spread betting

Sports spread betting has its origins in the financial markets but instead of trading the Dow Jones or the price of oil, you trade on sports. Sports becomes the commodity. You trade on markets like how many goals there will be in a football match or how many points in a rugby game or what the winning distance will be by a runner in a horse race. Some of these types of market are available with fixed odds bookmakers but spread betting works differently.

Here’s an example:

In a football game between Chelsea and Arsenal, the spread firms think there will be 3 goals scored. So they set the spread at:

2.9 – 3.1

If you think the match will have less than 3 goals, then you ‘sell’ at 2.9. If you think the match will have more than 3 goals, then you would buy at ‘3.1’.

If at full time the match had 6 goals, and you had bought at 3.1 with a stake of £10, then you would make £29. You calculate this by taking the difference between the 3.1 buy price and the number of goals (6)  x your stake. So 6 – 3.1 = 2.9. £10 x 2.9 = £29.

If, however, at full time the match had only 1 goal, then you would lose £21. The difference between the 3.1 buy price and the number of goals (1) x your stake. So 3.1 – 1 = 2.1. £10 x 2.1 = £21.

Of course if you had sold at 2.9 and there was only 1 goal, then you would win £19. The difference between the 2.9 sell price and the number of goals (1) x your stake. So 2.9 – 1 = 1.9. £10 x 1.9 = £19.

At traditional bookmakers you might have bet, for example, on a 4 goal total in the game and therefore lost your bet. With a spread bet the more goals that are scored, the better it is for you, as long as you have ‘bought’ the market. In essence you can make better use of your sports knowledge. Sports spread betting is not just about ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ but how you win or lose.

People who don’t fully understand sports spread betting are often put off by the fact that while you can win more than your stake, you can also lose more than your stake. True. But you can minimise your risk and even limit your loss.

Here’s an example.

In another football match, again in the goals market, the spread is 2.8 – 3.0. You decide that you want to buy at 3.0 but don’t want to lose more than £15. All you do is bet a stake of £5 this time. The worst result for you in the game is 0-0. That would mean a difference of 3.0. Buy price 3.0 – 0 goals = 3. £5 x 3 = £15.

Your upside is in theory unlimited. If there were 7 goals in the game, then you would win £20. (7 goals – 3.0 buy price ) x £5.

There are a whole range of football markets available, from corners to bookings, as well as numerous markets in many other sports.

How is a market displayed?

Here are the markets from a game between Real Madrid v Manchester United.

In spread betting you will always see two prices. The buy price and the sell price. It’s the gap between the prices that is known as the spread.


sports spread betting market example


Here’s an example of how a bet slip might look for a ‘buy’ in the corners market.  Here the bettor has decided that there will be more than 11 corners in the game and so has bought at 11 for a stake of £5.


sports spread betting - bet slip

In Play Spread Betting

In sports spread betting you can bet in play right up to the final whistle. You can cash out at the quoted price during the match or event for a profit or loss.

Here’s an example:

In a Rugby match between Ireland and Wales the Total Points market is set at 30 – 33. You decide to buy at 33 for a stake of £10.

The game starts at a furious pace with points scored. The spread moves out to 42-45 but you think the pace of the game will slow and so decide to take your profit.

To close a bet you have to do the opposite of your opening action. So if initially you had bought, you would have to sell, and vice versa.  In this example using Sporting Index, all you do is click on ‘Open Bets’. This will show you your active bets in a particular market, the current price / spread, as well as the value of your bet.

To take your profit in this case and close out your bet at 42, simply click the  ‘Cash Out’ button and you pocket a guaranteed £90. (The difference between your buy price of 33 and the current quoted price of 42 = 9, multiplied by your £10 stake = £90).


in play cash out slip - sports spread betting


Now whatever the result, you will have won £90.

Hopefully this has given you an overview of how sports spread betting works. The spread betting firms offer demo accounts but if you want to bet real money right away, then you can start with very low minimum stakes of around £0.10 (10p). You can give sports spread betting a try for very little risk.

Some other popular markets you might explore are as follows:


Supremacy, Total Goals, Goal Scorers Shirt No’s. Total Bookings, Total Corners, Time of First Goal and many more.

Also make sure that you look at NFL and Rugby (Betfile’s favourite markets!) as well as Cricket, Golf, Horse Racing and Boxing.

For an overview of the best spread betting firms click here.

Good luck!