Clubs like Skabersjo IF – a team in the seventh division of Swedish soccer – aren’t used to having odds on their games, let alone gamblers paying close attention to their games. But that’s what’s happening now, as sportsbooks look for anything to offer odds on to their customers during the coronavirus pandemic.
In Sweden, as in most other nations, top-tier leagues have stopped playing matches under social distancing guidelines. But Swedish authorities have allowed low-level friendlies to take place without audiences, a move that bookmakers have seized upon in order to offer some action to their clients.
Swedish Clubs Attract Ire of Gamblers
That means bettors are paying unusual attention to these amateur games. According to club officials, individuals from Asia, England, and other locations have contacted them in an attempt to get information on teams which are playing these games, presumably to gain an edge when betting on these matches.
Asking for inside information is worrisome enough. But clubs say they have seen far worse. Skabersjo drew Vastra Ingelstad IS 1-1 on Monday, after which people flooded their social media accounts with angry messages.
After the game, we received a lot of threats, death threats, where they said they wanted us all to be killed by COVID-19,” Skabersjo chairman Mattias Andersson told the Associated Press. “It’s insane.”
While he found the messages concerning, Andersson said that he has not yet reported the comments to the police. He plans to discuss the issue at the club’s next board meeting. Meanwhile, the Swedish soccer association has told clubs that are still playing to ignore any messages that ask for information about their teams or other clubs in their leagues.
These issues only exist because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtually all high-level soccer leagues – the kinds that bettors normally pay attention to – have postponed all games for the foreseeable future. That leaves little for sportsbooks to offer, with the exception of the Belarusian Premier League, which has soldiered on despite the coronavirus.
Soccer Bettors Have Few Options During Pandemic
The Swedish soccer federation has even asked some amateur teams to cancel friendlies because of unwanted attention. Eskilstuna FC and Nashulta GoIF planned to play a friendly on Monday, but cancelled their match after gamblers contacted staff members at both clubs.
More clubs scuttled matches on Thursday, including a clash between Kungsangens IF and IFK Lidingo, and another between Sollentuna FK and FOC Farsta.
The betting availability of these low-level matches depends heavily on regulations in various nations. American sportsbooks generally cannot offer such betting, as state regulators must approve each league or competition individually. On the other hand, many European bookmakers maintain a broader authority to offer betting on anything they wish, including amateur soccer matches and other obscure events.