PCB’s Betting Week – 10th June

If you are thinking of an antepost bet in the Premiership this summer then don’t bet too soon….

It may be high summer but already, the bookmakers are busy publishing their lists of antepost odds and specials in a multitude of markets. However, if you think you think you’ve spotted a value runner in one of these markets then the advice could be to hold your fire.

In a Premiership that is largely functionally ‘broke’ the buzzword concept in the boardrooms this summer is ‘player trading’ as the clubs look to shuffle their packs within their means rather than splash the cash. For the midtable regulars especially, that means wheeling and dealing in a fairly shallow pool. Namely, trading similar standard players (and managers) from direct rival clubs, or hoping to acquire the cast-offs from top sides whose ‘nearly men’ have been frozen out of their 25 man Premiership squads. The impetus for this is the new UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations. UEFA say: “The regulations are aimed at bringing about a situation which curbs the excessive spending and inflated transfer fees and player salaries that have endangered football in recent years. They call for greater discipline and more rational financial behaviour from clubs, and encourage clubs to operate more responsibly by not spendingmore than they earn, while settling their liabilities punctually.”

UEFA claimed in launching the legislation in February that the aggregate loss of Europe’s top clubs was €578m with some 65% of income being spent on average on salaries, accounting for 47% of clubs’ reported losses.

In practical terms the legislation is likely to mean that any club with serious long-term ambitions of playing in Europe shouldn’t be losing more than £8.7m per year.

Clubs will be permitted up to £38.5m in losses in the first monitoring period between this coming season and 2012-13. However if clubs miss these targets they will only escape sanctions as long as the losses are being reduced or if overspending was caused by transfer fees and wages before 2010.

The likes of Chelsea and Man City are confident that they will not be excluded from European competition in 2014-15, which will be the first season when disciplinary sanctions could be implemented – to do that they will have to show willing now.

This is sure to set in train a transfer window merrygoround with the likes of Robbie Keane, Shay Given and Craig Bellamy just three of the players likely to be deemed blots on their clubs’ balance sheets.

In the first instance, that will mean clubs trying to sell off rather than loan out their unusable assets. A desire to sell will probably hit those mid ranking clubs in the Premiership and Scotland’s Old Firm hardest first, pricing them out off an auction, even at reduced prices. This already appears to have hit Celtic in their pursuit of a marquee signing culled from the aforementioned trio of former players. In the first instance, those mid-ranked Premiership clubs with pretensions of breaking through the glass ceiling and into the European qualifying places and those also-rans fighting a rearguard action against relegation could all be struggling to get their favoured targets in. As the clock winds down towards the end of the transfer window we are almost sure to see a surge of loan deals as the big spenders seek to offload the squad players that second and third rung clubbs want but can’t afford to buy and the market panics.

From a dramatic point of view it is sure to be compelling viewing but for punters it is a minefield where July’s shrewd value play could look distinctly knucklehead by the time the window slams shut on August 31st. If you decide to go early with a long-term play in the top league in England in Scotland, you run the risk, like never before, of being hit by a nasty sidewinder.

The fact is you wouldn’t bet on a horserace where you didn’t have a comprehensive list of runners and riders and that effectively, is what you have here.

The advice is to study up now, waiting for a more settled picture before you pounce.

At this stage, perhaps an interest in the top scorer market is the only viable option.

Hernandez appears to have elbowed his way to the front of the queue as Man United’s primary striker and that is likely to guarantee him the game time he needs to mount a challenge in this market at 12/1.

Andy Carroll at Liverpool is another candidate: not least because the big target man should get reliable service. The Reds appear to be signing every player in English football right now that can cross a ball. The only issue with Carroll is his fitness. His physique suggests he may not be the quickest healer should he pick up the niggles typical of a main striker at a top club.

All Eyes On Royal Ascot

In racing it is all eyes on Royal Ascot – a five day event that simply can’t be bettered for spectacle in the racing calendar.

Betting wise too it is a meeting where your fancies are likely to hold their price thanks to the deep liquidity. In such a competitive context it is strange to see four or five odds on shots in the favourites’ berths. All eyes will be on putative stars such as Frankel and Canford Cliffs but I am keener elsewhere.

I like the prospects of Start Right in The Royal Hunt Cup at 7/1 and Elzaam (12/1) in The Golden Jubilee. With that one the morning vibes will be crucial but if they are positive we could witness the coronation of a very special horse on Saturday.

That leaves us with Thursday’s US Open. It looks like a straight shoot-out between the in-form Brits like Donald and Westwood who are yet to win a major and a host of US nearly men. However, I am very keen on the chances of the Italian Matteo Manassero at 66/1. If he wins his home tournament The Italian Open (and he is going well) he is sure to be much shorter come tee time at Maryland’s Congressional Country Club.