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european championship trophyOn the international stage, the World Cup is the biggest football tournament. As the name suggests, it’s for countries all around the globe to enter, but some fans of the sport prefer things to be a little bit more personal. FIFA is the global governing body for the sport and takes command of the World Cup, but on a smaller scale there are numerous different bodies that are responsible for football on the various continents. In Europe that body is UEFA and every four years they organise the European Championship.

The competition is designed to find out which is the best footballing nation in Europe and it takes place two years after each World Cup. Whilst it doesn’t boast the same level of prestige as the global tournament, it is the second-most important competition for European teams and arguably stands above the likes of the Copa América and the Africa Cup of Nations in terms of how it’s perceived around the world. It is European football’s chance to shine on the global stage and rarely disappoints.

European Championship New Customer Free Bets

euro 2020 coinBelieve it or not, bookmakers aren’t stupid. They know that when a big tournament such as the European Championship comes around then plenty of people are going to want to have a bet on it, with many of those people being ones that might not usually bet at all. When that happens there is often something of a feeding frenzy between them as they all look to gain your business off each other.

As a punter, that’s very good news indeed. Why? Because if you play your cards right then you can take advantage of all of the offers that are out there to get yourself a few free bets or bonus offers that will allow you to have a flutter with potential added value. Gambling is still risky by its very nature, but if you pay attention to what’s on offer you can use the European Championship to your advantage when you have a flutter.

What Are The Main Offer Types?

freeNormally there are two main offer types put forward when the Euros are about to kick off: free bets and bonuses. Free bets will see you given a set amount of money as a free bet token when you make a deposit into your account and place your first wager with a bookmaker, whilst bonuses usually see you receive bonus money when you’ve met certain criteria and that bonus money then needs to be ‘rolled over’ before it will begin to count as cash.

If you’ve ever paid even a passing interest to adverts from betting companies then you’ll no doubt have seen adverts saying things like ‘Bet £5 On The Euros & Get A £10 Bonus’. The idea is that new customers will sign up to a betting company and deposit money into their account, betting £5 of that money on a European Championship match. By doing so, as long as the bet was placed on an event with odds of, say, 1/2 or greater, you’ll be given £10 in bonus money.

The trick from a bookmaker’s point of view when it comes to such bonus money is in the small print. Normally this will tell you that the bets that you place with your bonus money must also be on events with odds of 1/2 or greater and that you’ll need to rollover your bonus money a certain number of times before you can use it as real cash. If you have to roll it over five times, for argument’s sake, that means it will need to have been bet and settled five times and then you can withdraw it.

The difference between that and a free bet is that the free bet offer will usually have language such as ‘Bet £5 On The Euros & Get A £10 Free Bet’. Once again you’ll need to deposit money into your account and then bet £5 on an event with odds in excess of a certain amount. Once you’ve done that your account will be credited with your £10 free bet. The free bet will also have all sorts of small print, such as needing to place it one lump sum rather than splitting it and also having to hit certain odds criteria.

Sometimes the wording will say something along the lines of ‘Get £10 Money Back On The Euros’. This doesn’t mean that £10 will be refunded to you as cash if you place a £10 bet on a European Championship match and it’s a loser. Instead, if your £10 bet is a winner then you’ll get to keep your winnings and if it’s a loser then you’ll be given a £10 free bet token to use on a different match. The risk of simply losing your £10 is mitigated by the fact that you’ll get a £10 free bet token, which is better than nothing at all, but still need to be wagered to convert it into cash.

Special Offers

special offerBig events like the Euros attract plenty of event specials, which are basically different ways of giving you free bets and bonuses, but they sound better.  They are often more restricted, to a select match or individual bet, but can also often be higher value than the usual welcome deal if you plan to bet on that market anyway.

Some of the main types are:

Enhanced Odds: Usually match specific, expect to see things like 50/1 Germany to beat France.  This will have a low stake limit (usually £1 or £5) and will pay out extra winnings (i.e. any payout above the standard odds) in free bets or bonuses.  The bet of course has to win to get the promo cash.
Tournament Specials: If betting before the tourament starts there are often introductory specials where if you place an outright bet you will get a free bet each time that team wins or a certain player scores.  These can end up being valuable if your team stays in longer or your player scores a lot.  From the bookies point of view they are happy to give more here as they know you will stick around during the tournament to claim the tokens.
Bet Through The Card: This is something that has come into football from racing.  The idea is if you say bet on the the first match of a given day you will then get free bets for the remaining matches.  Another example of a deal that can often provide a greater amount free but thats only any good if you were going to bet on those matches anyway.
Risk Free Bets: To be risk free a bookie must pay you back in cash if you lose up to a set stake limit.  These deals are rare but they tend to crop up more often during events like the Euros. Make sure you read the terms carefully though so you know for sure it is an actual cash back offer.  These bets are also often restricted to a specific bet, match or tournament.

What To Look Out For In The Small Print

terms and conditions

All offers made during the European Championship will have small print attached to them, so it’s worth thinking about what you need to bear in mind if you’re hoping to take advantage of a bookmaker’s offer.

Here’s a quick look at the sort of things to look out for:

  • Are You Eligible?: The offers on the site are designed for UK users over the age of 18 who are residents.  This doesn’t mean you can claim similar deals if outside the UK, just that you should check if you are eligible.
  • Qualifying Bet: You generally need to place a qualifying bet over minimum odds to activate a promotion.  This may be open to all sports or could be restricted to a certain sport, market or even bet.
  • Minimum Odds: Most bets and free bets or bonus money have to be made on events with a minimum odds figure. Sometimes this will be something like ‘1/2 or greater’, but the small print will tell you for sure.
  • Maximum Payout: A lot of the time a bookmaker will tell you that they’ll only payout a certain amount of money on winning free bets. This means that there’ll be no point using your £10 free bet on something with odds of 30/1 if they’re only going to pay out a maximum of £200, for example.
  • Rollover Requirements: This is particularly relevant when it comes to bonus money. Oftentimes bookies will say that you need to bet and settle your bonus money a given number of times before it becomes ‘real’ cash money. Keep an eye on the number of rollovers needed and the odds on the bets you can place.
  • Is There A Time Limit?: Qualifying for an offer and then when you get them the free bet tokens will both often have time limits attached, saying that you need to use them within 7 or thirty dates, for example.
  • Do You Need To Enter A Code?: It’s not uncommon for a bookmaker to tell you that you need to enter a code such as FREEEUROBET10 in order to get your bonus money. Keep an eye out for this if it’s the case.

Obviously this list is far from exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the sort of thing that you need to keep a lookout for when you’re trying to take advantage of the free bet offers that are thrown around by bookies in the build-up to the Euros kicking off.

Existing Customer Offers For The Euros

customer loyaltyUltimately bookmakers are giving you these free bet and bonus offers because they want you to actually win.  The idea is you will get a good relationship with them and want to continue placing bets with them. Over time of course they want more people betting on the European Championship to lose their bets, but if you’re sensible then you can be in the minority.

Of course, bookmakers also know that the more offers they throw out there the more likely it is that people will place their bets with them rather than one of their rivals, thereby increasing their chance of making a large profit during the Euros. Once again this is excellent news for the clever punter because it means that there are loads of offers out there for us to take advantage of even once you have signed up and you are an existing customer.

Below are the most common ones. Once again, this list isn’t exhaustive but it should put you in the right frame of mind regarding what to keep an eye out for when the Euros roll around and you start to notice bookmakers making offers to entire punters to their sites.

Offer TypeMeaning
Boosted Odds & Price BoostsBookmakers will regularly try to entice you in by offering inflated odds for a bet that they know is going to be popular. Say England are playing Turkey and the odds for Harry Kane to score first are 3/1, but a bookie will offer 6/1 on Kane to get you to bet with them. Some brands will even give you open boosts that you can apply to your own bets, this means you can bet on what you like but still get added value.
More Goals = More MoneyDifferent bookmakers have different names for this but the premise is still the same. If you place a Goalscorer bet on a player and they go on to score two, three or more goals during the match then you’ll be paid out again and again every time they score. Again, how you get paid out will depend on the bookie but it might will be cash for your first bet and then bonus money for the rest
Insure Your AccasIt’s popular for football lovers to place accumulator bets on matches, especially during big tournaments. Bookmakers will often offer you insurance on your accumulator bets that mean that you’ll get something like your stake refunded if only one of your legs is a loser
More Money For Winning AccasAnother accumulator offer that bookies will sometimes put forward during a big event like the European Championship is bonuses on top of winning accas. Say you’ve placed an acca that involved 13 events, a bookmaker will offer to give you an additional 50% of your winnings as bonus money if every single event is a winner
Free Bets For Being LoyalThe final thing worth mentioning is the desire of bookmakers to get you to bet exclusively with them. They’ll try to encourage you to do this by saying that if you place a given number of bets through them then they’ll reward you with a free bet. It’s normally not an earth-shattering amount but every little helps when you’re trying to find value

A Brief History Of The European Championship

european championship mapIn 1927 the Secretary-General of the French Football Federation, Henri Delaunay, suggested that there should be a pan-European tournament to decide upon the best football team on the continent. This was three years before the formation of the World Cup, so there was obviously an appetite for teams to go up against each other on the international stage. The major problem that Delaunay was presented with was the fact that Europe lacked a governing body at the time.

It took another 27 years for representatives of France, Italy and Belgium Football Associations to gather together in Switzerland and form the Union Of European Football Associations, appointing Delaunay as the first General Secretary. That might have been a while, but he hasn’t forgotten his idea and the first thing that he did was to start working on creating his pan-European competition, enlisting the support of fellow European football enthusiasts.

UEFA European Nations Cup

euro 2020 ballWhen Delaunay died in 1955 his son Pierre took over as the head of the organisation that would become known as UEFA, picking up the mantel on the desire to create a competitive tournament for European teams. In 1958 the UEFA European Nations Cup was created, with the notion being that the four best teams on the continent would go up against each other in a tournament in France. 17 teams applied to take part, with 8 eventually doing so.

Romania, Portugal, France, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Austria and Spain were the teams involved in the forerunner of the European Championship. In the end the Soviet Union beat Czechoslovakia 3-0 in one final and France lost 5-4 to Yugoslavia, leading to a final between the Soviet and the Yugoslavs. The former won 2-1 after extra-time to become the first nation to win a pan-European competition.

The Tournament Begins To Be Popular

european championship trophy close upSpain were chosen as the hosts for the second iteration of the competition, with the hope being that by choosing such a well-known footballing nation it would encourage the likes of England and West Germany to take part after the refusal to do so the first time around. 29 nations entered teams at the qualification stage, proving that it was indeed a popular idea with football loving countries throughout Europe. West Germany wasn’t one of them, though, and England didn’t really take it seriously.

There was a need to get the number of teams that originally applied down, so there was a knockout competition played that eventually left just four teams to move forward to the competition proper. Spain, Denmark, Hungary and the Soviet Union were the ones that made it, with the hosts eventually defeating the holders 2-1 in the final. It was successful enough to mean that the tournament began to gain a certain level of prestige, even if political troubles in Europe at the time marred certain moments just as it had done four years earlier.

A Group Stage Is Introduced

england team celebrate international goalItaly played hosts for the 1968 iteration of the competition, but things were complicated in terms of the structure as 31 teams wanted to take part in it. As a result it was decided that a group stage would be used initially and the winners of the groups would progress to a quarter final stage. West Germany finally entered but disappointed, failing to get out of their group. The hosts nation won again, this time thanks to Italy’s 2-0 win over Yugoslavia in the final.

The group stage was seen as something of a success for the process of whittling down the number of teams that wanted to enter the tournament, so it was used again when Belgium was the host nation in 1972. The competition had really begun to hit its stride and be taken seriously by this point, which was confirmed when West Germany defeated the Soviet Union in the final to be declared the champions of Europe. The would go on to win the World Cup two years later to prove their dominance.

Big Changes Come In

euro 1988 stampHaving been growing in popularity year-on-year, a decision was taken to make big changes to the competition in 1980 when the tournament proper saw 8 teams take part rather than 4. It was also the first year that involved the host nation qualifying for the final stage automatically. This lasted until 1996 when England was the host nation and the tournament was expanded to welcome 16 teams to the final stage.

Four years later and another first came into effect for the Euros, when the Netherlands and Belgium shared hosting duties. It was the tournament in 2004 that was seen as being representative of the true nature of the European Championship when Greece won it at odds of 150/1. This caused the football associations of countries like Scotland and Ireland to want to be a part of it, so they proposed that it should be expanded to welcome 24 teams. That came to pass for the 2016 competition.

The Format Of The European Championship


euro 2020 group a and b

The qualifying for the tournament is almost complicated enough to warrant a page all of its own, getting underway as it does the autumn after the previous World Cup is completed. Teams are entered into qualifying groups according to the ranking on the global scale, being seeded accordingly. Qualifying is played out in a group format with a given number of teams in each group moving into the finals proper.

Things are complicated slightly by the recent introduction of the UEFA Nations League tournament. The idea behind it was to give international teams some structure to their time, rather than just playing countless different friendlies that didn’t mean anything. Yet only the first 20 spots for Euro 2021 were given to teams through qualifying, with the four remaining spots handed out according to a team’s performance in the Nations League.

The Finals

euro 2020 group c and d

Starting with the 2016 European Championship, 24 teams progress out of qualifying and into the finals themselves. Those 24 teams are then put into six groups with four teams in each, with each team playing all others in their group in the hope of progressing to the knockout stage of the competition.

The top two teams in each group qualify to the knockout rounds automatically, whilst the four best third-placed teams also join them in the round of 16.

euro 2020 group e and f

At this point a standard knockout tournament gets underway, with the 8 teams winning those matches making it to the quarter-finals, those 4 winners getting to the semi-finals and the 2 winners there making the final.

As with most major knockout competitions, extra-time and penalties can be used to decide upon the winners of a match if scores are level after ninety minutes during the knockout stage.

Selecting The Host Nations

wembley stadium at sunset

The manner in which the host nation is chosen for the European Championship has changed over the years. Nowadays countries bid to host the competition and their bids are decided upon by UEFA representatives. Things were made even more entertaining when the 2021 European Championship came about and UEFA decided that it wanted to have the competition hosted throughout Europe.

12 different cities in 12 different countries were chosen to host matches, with the Stadio Olimpico in Rome taking charge of the opening game and the semi-finals and final being played at Wembley Stadium in London. It is designed as being a celebration of football for the 60th anniversary of the competition.

The 2024 version of the European Championship is a much more representative version of how things work, with Germany and Turkey putting forward bids before the UEFA Executive Committee voted secretly and Germany was chosen as the winner. That meant that they qualified automatically for the tournament and 23 remaining places were decided upon according to the standard qualification tournament.