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As one of the last professional leagues playing on Earth, the Belarusian Premier League has become something of a novelty to sports bettors. With the world under the grip of coronavirus for the foreseeable future, the small European country has taken the spotlight as a lone source of sports entertainment.
With the added interest in the league, as many as ten countries have recently struck deals with television networks in places such as Russia, India and Israel to broadcast games.
“We didn’t expect them to have a decent league over there,” said Viktor Samoilenko, head of Poverkhnost Ukraine, which produces the popular Sport-1 in the country. “We didn’t know this before because we didn’t show the matches.”
Games in the BPL rarely draw more than 1,500 spectators, although last weekend’s match between FC Minsk and Dinamo Minsk, two of the more popular teams in the league, drew over 3,000 with a smattering of fans wearing masks.
To compare the strength of the BPL, UEFA ranks the league 25th in the world, behind other little respected pro soccer leagues such as Norway, Kazakhstan and Israel.
Below is a graph from Google Trends showing the increase in Google searches for “Belarus soccer” in the US. As you can see, interest in the league has skyrocketed in the US as soccer fans and sports bettors alike try to get their fill.
Sportsbooks are also seeing a significant uptick in betting activity on the Belarusian Premier League.
- The Belarus Premier League has the most actives of any league
- It trails only table tennis when it comes to handle and bets
- Over 45% of all actives in the past week have bet the league
The Belarusian Premier League continues to play behind the direction of the nation’s controversial President Alexander Lukashenko. The leader has downplayed the emergence of the coronavirus as nothing more than a “psycho virus” and encouraged citizens to visit a spa and drink vodka.
The President recently told a local television station after a hockey match he participated in, that “it’s better to die standing than to live on your knees. There are no viruses here (at the hockey rink)…I don’t see them.”
Even with Lukashenko’s claims, all fans are given hand sanitizer when entering the game and their temperatures are taken by local health officials as a precautionary measure.
Although the entire world refutes the claims by Lukashenko, sports bettors have become drawn to the little-watched league as a source of wagering, spawning a new interest in professional soccer in Belarus.
16 teams face off each season to win the Belarusian Premier League. With the 2020 season just starting, the league has gained attention from bettors looking to wager on sporting events.
The top team in the league is BATE Borisor. The club boasts 15 total titles, including a record 13 consecutive titles, before Dinamo Brest upset the kings of the Belarusian Premier League and won their first-ever title after 29 years of existence last year.
Dinamo Minsk is another team that draws attention as they have won seven championships with their last coming in 2004, but they do own four second place finishes since 2012.
The best player in the league is BATE Borisov’s Ihar Stasevich. The midfielder has won nine Belarusian Premier League titles and four of the last five Player of the Year trophies.
After two games in the 2020 season, FC Minsk, Energetik-BGU, Isloch Minsk and Trop. Zhodino are the only teams to win both opening matches. BATE Borisov has surprisingly lost both of their opening matches, scoring just two goals combined over the opening two matches.
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