Soccer bettors will know there are countless factors that can influence the result of a match, but how important is it to take the weather into consideration before betting on soccer? Can a change in pitch conditions alter the outcome of your bet? Read on to find out.
While basic betting knowledge dictates that you look at a team’s form or head-to-head record with their opponent, sharp bettors will know that there is much more to it than that.
Using the Brier Score method or calculating the Poisson distribution for any given fixture can inform your betting, but it is also important to analyse the effect that things like a new stadium, a congested fixture period and even a change in the weather could have.
Why would weather effect soccer betting?
It may be hard to quantify but changes in the weather can certainly have an impact on the result in a soccer match - just like it does in the NFL. Adverse weather conditions can cause a game to be postponed, but things like rain, snow, wind and sun can benefit certain teams as well as potentially influencing the number of goals scored in a match.
Teams that play more long balls and crosses will struggle to gauge a pass played in the air because the wind will alter its trajectory.
Light rain is considered more suitable to passing teams. This is because when moisture sits on the surface, the ball will “skim” and travel faster - Jose Mourinho was fully aware of how this would benefit Barcelona when he was Real Madrid manager so he infamously chose not to water the pitch when Barcelona played at Santiago Bernabeu.
However, too much rain becomes detrimental to teams that keep the ball on the floor - if a pitch becomes saturated with water or “waterlogged” then the ball won’t travel as far as it should, making it harder to judge a pass. While modern technology and pitch drainage systems mean very few pitches are waterlogged in top divisions, it is still a regular occurrence in the lower leagues.
A similar logic can be applied to when there are strong winds during a soccer match - teams that play more long balls and crosses will struggle to gauge a pass played in the air because the wind will alter its trajectory.
Is there more goals in hot weather?
It is often said that the hotter a match is the higher the likelihood of goals, but is this really the case? While claims of additional fatigue might make sense, if hot weather causes defenders to tire quicker, it should have the same effect on attackers.
We can analyse Premier League data from the last three seasons to see if there is any kind of pattern between goals scored during matches in the “hot months” (three months with the highest average temperature) and the “cold and wet months” (three months with the lowest average temperature and highest rainfall).
Average goals per game (GPG) from 2013/14 - 2015/16:
Percentage of both teams to score (BTTS) from 2013/14 - 2015/16:
Percentage of both teams to score (BTTS) from 2013/14 - 2015/16
Although a larger sample size may tell us more about what impact the weather has in terms of goals scored in the Premier League, there doesn’t seem to be more goals scored in the “hot months” compared to the “cold and wet months” - it is also worth noting that the "hot months" are at the start and end of the season (a lot of teams don't have anything to play for towards the end of the season).
Does a change in conditions cause a change in the odds?
One of the commonly accepted effects that weather has on soccer betting is when teams have to travel long distances to play in climates they aren’t accustomed to - examples of this are prevalent within the Champions League and Europa League.
Too much rain becomes detrimental to teams that keep the ball on the floor - if a pitch is waterlogged then the ball won’t travel as far as it should.
Using the odds movement from past matches, we can see if a change in the weather or playing conditions has any impact on the odds for a travelling team - Manchester United’s recent away games against Zorya Luhansk and FC Rostov are two examples we can use.
Bookmakers and bettors would have already accounted for Manchester United’s trips to Ukraine and Russia to play in freezing cold temperatures. However, in both cases, information came to light (around 24 hours before kik-off) that the pitch was frozen over against Zorya and the playing surface had severely deteriorated prior to the game against Rostov.
Below is a breakdown of the odds movement for Manchester United’s games against Zorya Luhansk and FC Rostov:
Zorya Luhansk vs. Manchester United odds movement
FC Rostov vs. Manchester United odds movement
As you can see, there is some slight odds movement for each game but no major indicators in terms of what bettors might make of the change in conditions - the odds movement would have perhaps been more notable had Manchester United not been such a heavy favourite.
International tournaments and acclimatisation
Major international tournaments such as the World Cup also challenge teams to adapt to new conditions - the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is an excellent example of this.
Despite the tournament being hosted in the winter as opposed to the summer, numerous teams will be forced to play in temperatures they aren’t used to - temperatures are still expected to reach 30°C for matches played in the afternoon.
The extreme weather conditions mean the countries that are used to similar temperatures (those from Africa, Asia and South American) will hold a considerable advantage over those who usually play in cooler conditions - this means the weather will influence the World Cup outright winner odds, as well as individual games.
In short, the effect weather has on soccer betting is certainly something that should be taken into consideration, regardless of how subtle an effect it has. There are, of course, factors that can have much more of an impact but analysing as many factors as possible is a sure fire way to empower your betting.