Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken to many nervous Liverpool and Tottenham fans prior to the Champions League final. The fear of having an impressive season but ending without silverware haunts Liverpool fans, and they are particularly uneasy coming up against another Premier League club. For Tottenham fans this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see their club in the Champions League final. Tottenham were underdogs at so many stages in the competition – the final is no different.
While the outcome of the final is zero-sum, the levels of pain and happiness may not be. If fans are loss-averse, surely the pain of losing will be greater than the joy of winning for each set of supporters. This got me thinking about the ‘emotional’ or ‘psychological hedge’ – betting against ones preferred outcome or true preferences to mitigate emotional losses.
What value would Tottenham fans place on winning the Champion’s League? The willingness to pay for Spurs supporters to see Hugo Lloris lift the trophy would vary depending on emotional attachment to the club and identity, but how many will ask themselves this question and then stake a similar amount on Liverpool to win? At present Liverpool are 8/15 to lift the trophy – if a Spurs fan would be willing to pay, say €500, to see Spurs as champions, they could hedge and earn over €250 in the likely event that this doesn’t occur. This may ease the pain of a defeat and sooth emotions when Jordan Henderson lifts the cup.
I often wonder how prevalent this type of betting behaviour is – I wouldn’t expect it be present for regular matches where the emotional risks are relatively low, but as these increase, particularly for cup finals, the prevalence of the emotional hedge may rise.
The emotional hedge might seem like a logical approach, but betting that your club will lose can grate against one’s identity. There are negative emotions attached to betting against ourselves, perhaps a sense of disloyalty creeps in. How many die-hard fans would like it to be known that they’ve bet against their own? Maybe the emotional hedge is a very private phenomenon?