Bet your house on it, but just not in Sweden

16 Jun

The Swedes have one main feature in their grounds that us English are still trying to catch up on.  A hand up at the back there?  No it is not beer as the strict licencing laws here mean that it cannot be sold in the stadiums.  Nor is it the quality of their sausages as even the Swedes will grudgingly admit the Danes are king of the sausage in these parts.  No, it is the presence of a huge TV screen in some part of the ground.  Irrespective of the size of the ground there will be at least one large screen somewhere.

And what is it used for? Well Sweden has a bizarre practice of showing match action from other games being played around the country at the same time.  Not at half time, or even full time but during the game.

So there you are watching a Djurgården attack unfold in the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm when all of a sudden, “Bing, Bong” and all the eyes in the stadium will divert to the screen to see what has happened down in Trellesborgs, or Kalmar….the poor old Djurgården winger who could be on the run of his life has been upstaged by events elsewhere.  He might as well give up.  Most of these games mean nothing to either set of fans, although sometimes a cheer or a groan will tell a different story.

After the action the screen will then revert to showing a set of numbers.  The latest odds on the result of the game being played.  Swedes love free sports betting online, and with over 92.5% of the population having internet access, and more importantly over 40% use smartphones to access the interwebnet means that as soon as those odds flash up there is a flurry of activity as the fans pull out their iPhones.  However, as with most other avenues of pleasure in Sweden even this activity is heavily regulated.  In England there is a virtual fight over space in our football grounds from the betting companies.  In Sweden there is only one – the state owned (and controlled) Svenska Spel, and all other companies are banned from advertising.  Recently some of these bigger players in Europe have challenged this restriction, and it seems their cause is picking up support domestically as well.  A parliamentary majority between the four main political parties is required to rewrite Swedish gambling laws and begin licensing and regulating the online gambling market. There is no guarantee that the independent thinking party members of all four parties will fall in line and support Svenska Spel’s demise.

However, the Swedes also feel that freedom of information is an important social value and so online gambling is growing significantly.  There is no restriction on their use of sports betting websites overseas and with English fluent in almost everyone under the age of thirty, language is no barrier to their ability to place a bet or two.

So if you do ever end up at a game over here, remember to keep your eyes on the game and not on the screen.  You never know what you may miss.

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