Moment that mattered: Leicester City win the Premier League after Tottenham draw with Chelsea
At the start of the season Ladbrokes offered odds of 5,000-1 for Leicester to win the Premier League. Nine months later they did just that. Although it cost the company I work for £3 million I was over the moon. Since Christmas I’d spent a lot of time with the Leicester fans who’d bet on their team to win the league back at the start of the season. I was cheering the Foxes on because I loved the story of the underdog and because I’d met so many brilliant Leicester fans.
I thought Leicester might finish the job two days earlier when they played Manchester United away at Old Trafford. If Leicester won the game they’d win the league. I watched it in the Local Hero in Leicester with some people that stood to win a lot of money. The pub is pretty run of the mill – it’s next to an Asda opposite Leicester City’s ground, but the place was heaving, mostly with press. The handful of genuine punters were like TV stars for the day: for every fan watching the game, there were three members of the press watching them.
Leicester didn’t win the game [they drew 1-1], which meant that their nearest rivals Tottenham had to beat Chelsea to have any chance of beating Leicester to the title. I thought about staying in Leicester and watching the Chelsea game with the fans, but decided against it. So instead I saw the climax of the most incredible sporting story of my lifetime alone in my flat in London. Chelsea drew with Tottenham and I saw all the TV coverage of people going crazy in the Local Hero. My phone went berserk and I realised I had a lot of work to do. The next day I toured the TV and radio studios. I was on the Jeremy Vine show, BBC News, Bloomberg, Sky News…
It’s the most fantastic sports story and I think the fact that Ladbrokes had offered odds of 5,000-1 at the start of the season is a huge part of it. The bookies thought Leicester winning the league was less likely than Elvis being found alive (2,000-1), or the Loch Ness monster being discovered (500-1) – and that helped people who don’t follow football understand how unlikely Leicester’s success was. In the 130 years of its history, Ladbrokes has never paid out bets on odds of 5,000-1.
There were a lot of bookies crying poverty about Leicester’s win, but don’t you believe them. Leicester upset the odds every week. They beat all the fancy teams. The amount of accumulators that we didn’t have to pay out on because of people underestimating Leicester was huge. If you just look at bets on the league winners then yes, Leicester’s win cost us money, but, in terms of pounds in the till, the overall season has been a great one for bookmakers.
There were some fantastic stories from amongst the fans. There was Keval Nakeshree, a lifelong supporter, who won £33,333 and was so confident about Leicester winning the league that he missed the actual moment they did it – he was in Florida on a family holiday he’d booked back in March, on the basis of a win.
Then there was Karishma Kapoor, a student who put £2 on and won ten grand. She showed me a newspaper cutting of her being a Leicester mascot when she was seven years old, to prove she wasn’t ‘one of these token fans’. It’s strange having Leicester City supporters trying to justify themselves as not being glory hunters.
“At Christmas the thought of the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan and Claudio Ranieri lifting the trophy seemed ridiculous”
It was funny seeing the media clamour around those who had bets on. At the start the fans found it baffling – they’d just put a couple of quid on their team to win at the start of the season, like they’d always done – but by the end you could see them enjoying their 15 minutes. You saw them grow in stature. At the end of it Kapoor was like a superstar, saying ‘What time are we on Sky?’ ‘No, I won’t speak to them,’ and ‘Can you get me a Coke?’ This was a girl who hadn’t been in front of a camera in her life. She was thriving on all the attention.
Even some of the fans that cashed out their bets early were happy. Jon Pryke took £29,000 in March and said he had no regrets. He said the £71,000 he would have won was an irrelevant number because that money wasn’t his to begin with, and the stress of the rollercoaster season was enough in itself without worrying about losing money. There was another guy who wanted to remain anonymous who may not be so happy. He had £50 on and cashed out for £72,000 in March – he’d have made £250,000 if he’d held on.
We’ve seen the ‘Leicester effect’ kick in on betting behaviour in the new season with people backing outsiders. Take Middlesbrough, who were promoted last season. The bets for them to win the league are up 300 percent this season to last season – and they were in the Championship last season, not the Premier League. The odds of them winning are lower than Leicester’s were, 1,000-1, but the pay-out would be higher – it’s already up to five million quid.
Three months on it is strange how normal it feels that Leicester City are champions of England. At the start of the season it did feel like a 5,000-1 shot: this team had only just avoided being relegated the season before. At Christmas the thought of the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan and Claudio Ranieri lifting the trophy still seemed ridiculous. When they lost to Arsenal in February I thought they’d thrown it away. Even watching them play at Old Trafford I was still thinking ‘they can’t win it, they won’t win it’, but when they lifted the trophy a week later it felt normal – they deserved it. They only lost three games all season and ended up 10 points clear in the end. It’s only now that the new season has started that you realise what an achievement it was. The big teams have broken transfer records to buy in star players, yet Leicester are the top English seed in the Champions League.
We’ve all witnessed something incredible. What’s more, for a moment, in the eyes of the media at least, a pub next to an Asda carpark was the centre of the universe.
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