Football fans have received a further boost recently with news betting shops across the UK are once again open for business.
The recent situation in the world has seen many restrictions placed upon supporters, and the wider public, with a loss of football action one of the first blows. Only the Belarusian Premier League played on through the lockdown, prompting a huge amount of interest in otherwise unremarkable teams.
June saw the resumption of domestic football, albeit behind closed doors, but now supporters are being allowed back into betting shops, to at least be able to recreate some of their pre-match routine. Ladbrokes and Coral have announced they are set to open a significant portion of their 3,000 strong branches, delivering a key segment of typical fan culture back to supporters, although that isn’t the case across all of the UK as Northern Ireland bookmakers still remain closed.
Gambling on matches has long been a part of a pre-match routine for many fans, with accumulators incredibly popular as fans try to outdo each other with their superior knowledge. Whilst stadiums are not yet allowing fans back through the gates, news that betting shops are open means there is now scope to spend a day on the High Street, talking about football with groups of friends and attempting to find some sort of normality amongst the recent upheaval.
It is little surprise that the news of Ladbrokes and Coral opening their shops is being so well received, given their standing amongst football fans as a staple of the High Street. Ladbrokes are a huge part of the UK football betting industry and were popular long before betting companies had a strong online presence. Filling out accumulator coupons in a branch was often a key part of supporter’s pre-match rituals and with the public clinging to every scrap of normality, the reopening of the branches is sure to delight many.
The news comes with expected changes to the setup in branches, with social distancing and customer safety extremely high on the list of priorities. Initially, it will only be branches in England opening as rules across the UK differ, with Scotland and Wales likely to follow suit as their wider restrictions ease a little later.
Branches will look to supply stylus pens for customers to use, allowing them to avoid touching screens, and hand sanitizer will be offered upon entry as is standard in many shops. There will also be the now-familiar floor signs in store, with directional markers controlling the flow of people and social distancing rules being always observed.
In-branch staff will also be wearing faces masks and PPE to ensure their safety, with protective screens likely to be found on the counters and between betting stations. All these regulations form part of the ‘new normal’ which we are likely to see increasingly in our lives, but it at least has some element of ‘normal’ within.
Football stadiums might not be open yet and the range of games may well be limited, but the return of the betting shop is another sign to supporters that a certain degree of normality is within reach. We are still waiting for news on when the 2020/21 season might start, but in the meantime, there is plenty of action for people to be placing wagers on, and now they have a place they can go and do it safely too.
Founder and editor of Footiecentral. A voracious reader who loves reading anything and everything related to the history of football. He’s an ardent supporter of Manchester United and rarely misses a match.