Smart Money

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Author: Alex Duff

Category: Lifestyle , Sport & leisure

Book Format: Hardback

Publisher: Constable

ISBN: 9781408719404

RRP: $55.00


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In 1978, when Alex Duff first went to watch Brentford, players would go on midweek pub crawls near the Griffin Park stadium. Sometimes, in no fit state to go home, they would crash out in a terraced home where one of them lived opposite the stadium gates. The next morning, they clambered into a white van which one of them would drive to training, stopping on the way for a bacon sandwich and cup of tea at a greasy spoon cafe.

Brentford had once played in the top-flight but now, idling in the third division, were a second home for players and supporters, but there was neither the ambition nor money to revive their best days. They bumbled along until in 2005, fed up with trying to make a profit from a club with an ageing stadium in an unfashionable west London suburb, owner Ron Noades agreed to hand over the business to supporters on the condition they take over responsibility for their 5.5 million overdraft.

One of the fans, an Oxford University physics graduate called Matthew Benham, was making millions of pounds from professional gambling and threw in a 500,000 lifeline to help keep the club afloat. Initially, as a sort of academic challenge, he began figuring out if he could employ the mathematics which he used in beating the bookmakers to improve the club’s performance on the pitch.

Smart Money is the story of how a scientist with an inquiring mind was set loose in a backwater of professional football, and how he turned a modest, little-known team into a competitor in one of the world’s most-watched sports leagues.

Alex Duff is a distinguished sports business reporter, having worked for Bloomberg News for fifteen years. His first book Football’s Secret Trade (Wiley & Sons, 2017) about the football transfer market was serialized in the New York Times and Guardian, and featured in the Daily Mail. His second book Le Fric: Family, Power and Money: The Business of the Tour de France (Constable, 2022) was longlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and named as one of the ‘Best Summer Reads’ of 2022 by the Financial Times. It was praised in the Sunday Times and Times Literary Supplement.

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