These days Matthew Benham is known as the owner of Brentford FC, a second-tier football team in England. However, in the gambling world, he has built a reputation as a leader in sports analytics and betting.
Benham is clearly a highly intelligent individual. In the late 80’s he attended Oxford University and studied Physics. Upon completion of his studies he became an associate of Yamaichi International in Europe, working as a physicist. After that, he moved into finance and held roles at places such as Bank of America.
However, he always had a passion for sports and odds. He was particularly fond of football and loved the statistical side of things. So in 2001, he took a job as a trader at Premier Bet, a leading UK bookmaker. At the time he was working under Tony Bloom, who himself was a successful poker player as well as a businessman. Ultimately the two had a falling out and Benham left to pursue his own gambling. Despite their falling out, however, Benham was still heavily influenced by Bloom from then on.
Little is known about Benham’s gambling habits, but what is clear is that it is very much focused on statistics and analytics and his main love – English football.
The Gambler and 'SmartOdds'
In the late 90’s there was a paper published by Stuart Coles and Mark Dixon, titled, “Modelling Association Football Scores and Inefficiencies in the Football Betting Market.” The paper became one of the first to use statistical analysis and modelling to predict the outcome of football matches.
Benham began adopting the ideas in the paper and started building his own models. By 2004, Benham had been successfully implemented this quantitative approach to betting. As a result, he soon after formed his own betting syndicate – SmartOdds.
SmartOdds is more than a betting syndicate in truth. Effectively, it is actually a research hub for sports betting all around the world. They provide statistics, analysis and predictions for professional gamblers and those involved in the gambling industry.
From humble beginnings, the company has grown and now operates with a team of quants and they analyse football from all over the world, as well as Basketball, Baseball, Tennis, Hockey and American Football. However, the main interest of Benham has always been football.
Based in a modified warehouse in London, the team at SmartOdds are able to provide custom statistics on a range of different sports and can deliver analysis on whatever a client requires. It’s said that the company employs around 80 quants that watch sports, record statistics and then model and analyse them to produce customised data as well as place bets.
In a twist of fate, Stuart Coles, who wrote the seminal paper that clearly had a huge impact on Benham, now works at SmartOdds, as one of their quants.
The Businessman and Moneyball Manager
SmartOdds was a huge success for Benham and his wealth continued to grow. In 2011 Benham invested in betting exchange Matchbook. As Betfair continue to increase their charges and fees, Matchbook has rapidly expanded and is now one of the world’s major exchanges.
Around the same time, Benham also started using his mathematical prowess to develop and manage professional football teams in the UK and Europe.
Benham owns Brentford FC, as previously mentioned, as well as the Danish Club Midtjylland. Unlike the more traditional owners in the sport, Brenham uses a statistical approach in his position. He uses numbers and statistics to both identify potential signings, and analyse match strategy. It’s believed he uses a range of sports analytics firms to assist in identifying the very best talent available. This, in turn, has helped the second-tier Brentford FC to compete with the bigger budget clubs.
As it turns out Brentford FC was the team that Brenham followed as a child. When he heard that the team was facing collapse he anonymously put forward 500,000 pounds to save the club. Over the years he ultimately took control and has invested a significant portion of his net worth to develop the infrastructure of the club and make it competitive again.
There’s no doubt the Brenham has an incredibly gifted mathematical mind. However, he has turned that into an amazing career in both business and sports. First and foremost, he will likely go down in history as the man that turned around the struggling Brentford FC. However to punters, Benham’s story of building fortune through his statistical analysis of football is what will stand out.