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Punters poised for major boost; Singles on Premier League games may be allowed this year.

FOOTBALL punters could be offered the opportunity to do battle with the bookmakers on their own terms when the new season begins next month - by being allowed singles on all Premiership matches, writes Bruce Millington.

The Racing Post understands that negotiations have begun that could see a relaxation of the reviled minimum-trebles requirement for games that are not televised live.

The current rules demand that punters must have at least a treble - and in some cases a five-timer - unless the fixture they want to bet on is being broadcast live.

But it is believed that Football Fixtures, the body res-ponsible for licensing bookmakers on behalf of the Premier League, Football League and Scottish Leagues, is prepared to allow a change that would permit punters to place singles on all Premiership matches, regardless of whether they are live on TV.

This would provide a tremendous shot in the arm for football punters, who have for years been denied a fair crack of the whip as a result of the minimum-trebles stipulation, which vastly increases the percentages in the bookmakers' favour.

It would also be welcomed by a large proportion of the bookmaking industry, many of whom have campaigned for a change in the regulations in

order to boost turnover.

But the Betting Office Licen sees Association (BOLA), the umbrella group representing the major off-course bookmaking companies, opposed such a change last year and continues to give it a lukewarm response.

BOLA director general Tom Kelly said: "The Football Leagues asked us to consider the issue of changing the current rules before last season but we decided to maintain the current embargo.

"We thought it was operating quite well and there was no perception of any great interest from punters. There was also the issue of the integrity of the game to take into account."

The BOLA council will discuss the situation again on Monday and, with many of its most prominent members - including Hills and Coral - in favour of allowing punters to have singles on Premiership matches, a change of attitude could be forthcoming.

Certainly, there is little objection from within football to the punters' lot changing for the better, and BOLA's negative stance is not indicative of the mood of the bookmaking industry as a whole.

A well-placed source within the Leagues said: "The integ-rity of football is not an issue.

"It has been the bookmakers who have not wanted to

accept singles in the past, but there has been massive demand from within the betting industry, if not from BOLA themselves, for a change."

A decision is due before the new season starts on August 7, but even if the football

authorities consent to allowing singles, not every bookmaker is in favour. Ladbrokes are among the dissenters.

nThe layers' view and comment, page 125
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Millington, Bruce
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 3, 1999
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