VAR Should Continue to Prove Profitable for Penalty-Backers

The 2018 World Cup may now be a dim and distant memory, but many punters are still spending their winnings and counting their cash following a productive tournament for those who backed penalties on a regular basis. Whilst many bookmakers cottoned onto this trend fairly sharpish, the penalty-awarded market remained incredibly popular throughout the competition and at around 6/4, it was still a profitable angle amidst a fairly unpredictable tournament. VAR will continue to be used in the Bundesliga and Serie A this season and bettors will be looking to cash in once the campaign gets underway in August.

There were 29 penalties awarded in Russia, whereas four years earlier, just 16 spot-kicks were given. VAR was directly responsible for 11 of those with the technology allowing the officials to reconsider their decision with the benefit of a pitch-side replay. Ivan Perisic’s handball against France was referred to the replay team and subsequently produced the first-ever VAR-awarded penalty in a World Cup final.  The introduction of the technology has proved divisive and despite a broadly positive tournament, there are many sceptics who remain unconvinced by its introduction.

Despite helping correctly overturn 17 of the 20 wrong decisions at the World Cup, there are still a few issues to iron out and it has proved problematic in the MLS. Tomas Martinez’s controversial red-card provoked bemusement during the recent match between Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union and didn’t help the home side’s cause.

Referees refusing to gives sides seemingly stonewall penalties is always a talking point amongst fans but that should be far more infrequent this season across a number of top divisions. Spot-kicks were generally 6/4 to be awarded during the World Cup and but slightly larger prices are expected on a weekly basis in Serie A. During the first half of the 2017-18 campaign, VAR had been responsible for 18 penalties awarded whilst it rescinded a further seven. The new season gets underway on August 18th with Juventus expected to dominate the division once again. They are the 4/9 favourites in Paddy Power’s football odds ahead of Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli who are available at 11/2 to upset the Bianconeri.

Whilst VAR theoretically should increase the number of penalties awarded in Serie A games, the referee appointments are also an important factor. Latina’s Claudio Gavillucci has awarded nine penalties in 17 matches, which equates to one every 53 minutes whilst fellow whistle-blower Antonio Damato gave eight in 15. Other officials are often reluctant to award a penalty but VAR should help persuade them to punish an infringement.

If you are backing penalties in Serie A, clashes between the top sides in the division do tend to provoke careful attention from the VAR officials and this may be the route to success. Napoli and Juventus were awarded eight penalties apiece last season, with Mauro Icardi netting seven for Inter. Lazio saw a penalty awarded in five of their last 11 games and they are a side who enjoyed a fair amount of success from the spot. In the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich were also awarded eight penalties during the course of the campaign, with struggling Wolfsburg conceding three to the champions throughout the course of the campaign.

VAR’s propensity to award penalties won’t translate directly to domestic leagues as much smaller teams are employed to review the footage, but it is likely to increase the number of opportunities from the spot and that news is likely to please punters. Whilst the introduction of the technology still divides fans, it is likely to result in an increased amount of penalties throughout the season and should reward those who’ve backed a goal to be scored from 12 yards.

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