While all the major sports competitions throughout Europe have been suspended, postponed, or canceled, the football championship in Belarus has just kicked off to a winning start, despite the coronavirus pandemic and measures to stop the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Thursday, March 19, punters missing live sports events all over the world suddenly realized that not all is lost when they found a new reason to sit down in front of the TV. The relatively unknown Energetyk-BGU hosted the most successful club in Belarus BATE before a crowd of 730, filling roughly half of the stadium (in comparison, Barcelona’s home stadium, Camp Nou, has more than 99,000 seats). Normally, a match like this would go completely unnoticed outside Belarus, but this year it had something that other leagues couldn’t offer: the only opportunity to place a bet on a live football match during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Belarusian Premier League is one of the only options left for European fans of traditional sports to enjoy. While nearly everyone in Europe is left with no choice other than watching TV or online streaming services, the citizens of Belarus have the rare opportunity to be spectators at a live football match. Moreover, due to the cancelation of live events across the globe, many giant sports channels are broadcasting the Belarusian Premier League, even though normally a local Belarus match would be of little interest to an international audience.
Punters who have likely never given the Belarusian football scene a second thought (or even a first) have suddenly given it their full attention, as the lack of sporting events to follow has left them hungry for gambling options.
From a betting standpoint, William Hill’s sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich called the Belarusian football market a “decent business”, and given the circumstances, there is no reason to think otherwise. Liga Stavok’s report on how their business is doing supports Nick Bogdanovich’s statement.
Deputy General Director for Trading at Russian bookmaker Liga Stavok, Maksim Afanasyev, says: “If we look back at the last season, then [you see that] the Belarus championship got less than 1% of all the bets on football, which doesn’t say that the competition gained tremendous popularity. However, if we look at how [punters] place their bets now, then compared to the last year we already notice an increase in volume that’s 20 times bigger than the last season”.
The current condition of the sports industry, along with increased media attention, have driven punters hunting for live betting options to the Belarusian league. Those who don’t only stick to pregame wagers had the opportunity to place bets in a live format and enjoy the unpredictability of the game to the fullest.
It is a hard time for the entire betting industry, so it’s crucial to attract and retain audiences by offering them the betting options that are so scarce at the moment. It is also important to note that with such a deficit of betting opportunities, offering punters variety is the key to staying in the game. Belarusian football, table tennis, and sumo wrestling will hardly be able to fill the void in the content offering, so it is worth looking in the direction of constantly available esports and virtual sports betting to make the best of the ongoing crisis.
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