I am making an honest effort to get into Premier League football. For the last 10 years, at the beginning of every season I say to myself, “This is the year. I’m going to become a hooligan.” Then I forget that football exists. It happens year after year. It’s hard for me to care about a sport when I don’t have a connection to a team, and with the Premier League I’d just pick a team at random. I called myself a Tottenham fan for a while but I could never get behind it. Harry Kane didn’t move the needle enough for me.
However, I recently landed at Brentford Bees after hearing the story of how they got to the Premier League. Brentford are currently in the midst of their second season as a Premier League club and are enjoying a phenomenal year.
The story of how Brentford got to the Premier League is an inspiring one so I thought it was worth sharing on the blog. It’s a sports story that could never happen in the United States, or in any sport that doesn’t have relegation rules (maybe it could happen in college sports, but not like this). The thread posted at the top of the blog goes into more detail, but in short, this is the story of how Brentford Bees went from League Two to the Premier League in less than 20 years.
Brentford’s owner is called Matthew Benham. Growing up, Benham was a Brentford supporter. He graduated from Oxford University in 1989 and pursued a career in finance working for Bank of America. After 12 years working in finance, he made a career change and took a job with a gambling company where he learned how to develop algorithms and use analytics to set lines and predict game outcomes (and really they worked).
He eventually struck out on his own and started his own personal business where he used his models to consult professional players. He was obviously doing great, because the business was making him a shitload of money.
Fast forward to 2007. Brentford FC were in serious financial trouble. To save them from going under completely, Benham provided a $700,000 loan that helped a group of supporters buy the team and keep the club afloat. As part of the deal, supporters were supposed to repay the loan in 2012. If they declined, Benham would have the opportunity to buy the team outright. And that’s exactly what happened. This is a nice story in itself. There is nothing sadder than when a city loses its professional sports team. And I feel it’s very sad in England, where it seems like football is really what people live for. A lifelong fan being able to buy his hometown club and save them from extinction is amazing to see.
But things get MUCH better from there. Instead of building his club the traditional way, Benham used the same types of analysis he relied on to become a professional player. He did Moneyball. He hired an entire team of analysts who shared his vision and interpreted the plot of Moneyball (except much better, and for football). One thing that made me laugh was that it relied heavily on a statistic called “expected goals”. I don’t know why I find it so funny. It seems like if there is a stat called “expected goals” everyone should be using it? I mean, that’s the point, right? Especially after Brentford started having so much success with him. Brentford were buying players for a couple of million dollars, then flipping them years later for $30-40 million. This makes me think I could be a successful owner. You just have to choose the players who will score the most goals. Easy as that. If there are owners who don’t use the “expected goals” stat to some degree, I have to question their competence.
Brentford improved dramatically. They moved from League Two to League One and qualified for the Championship league in 2014. Once in the Championship, it took them just 7 years to get promoted to the Premier League in 2021. Brentford FC Estimated Net Worth Currently stands at $400. millions So Matthew Benham essentially used his gaming algorithms to turn a $700,000 loan into a $400 million Premier League club in less than 20 years. What a ride it must be for a fan. This could never happen in American sports. Every team, no matter how small, has a chance to rise to the top. I adore that.
I always thought that Dave Portnoy was one of the most interesting gambling stories of all time, as he was able to turn a bad gambler into multi-millions who is about to sell Barstool Sports (again). But this Benham guy could beat him. Benham was a good player, and having a professional sports team in a top league is about as cool as it gets.
So basically Brentford FC is based on gambling algorithms. In addition (and I can’t stand it, it’s just something that’s going on at the moment), their star striker Ivan Toney is facing a ban for 262 breaches of FA rule E8, which is the rule that prohibits those who participate in professional football play professional football. sport It is not clear what exactly the allegations are. I don’t think it has anything to do with shaving points (I could be wrong). But as I understand it, it’s more of a Calvin Ridley situation (if Calvin Ridley did what he did 262 times). The allegations were probably a big part of what kept Toney out of England’s World Cup squad.
According to these rules, I should imagine that Benham is no longer allowed to play football. This must be tough. Having these algorithms that are proven to work and you can’t even use them. He has to kill it when he sees a line that he knows is off. That must be hard to resist. I guess he can use his algorithms on a much larger scale to build his team, but still… He has to miss the old days from time to time.
Brentford are currently eighth in the Premier League. I saw them play out a 0-0 draw against Leeds United on Sunday morning. A game where the announcer said: “If you’re a Brentford fan, I hope you enjoy this run, because this could be as good as it gets.”
It was a little disheartening to hear. It’s quite possible that I’m buying the Brentford bees at their peak. Especially if their star striker is facing a heavy ban. But the story of how the Bees got to the Premier League was enough to get me on board. You have to love an underdog story. Also, bees are a pretty funny nickname. And from what I’ve seen, their fans are amazing. Buzz buzz #BeeTogether
Source: How A Professional Gambler Parlayed $700k Into a $400 Million Dollar Premier League Club