Abandoned, Postponed, and Cancelled Matches: What Happens to Your Bets?

Cancelled Football Match

Games being called off, abandoned, or even cancelled can be one of the most frustrating things for any bettor or football fan. You’ve put hours of research into a bet, found great odds, and invested your heard earned cash hoping it will come in.

Then factors beyond your control stop that bet in its tracks. It’s a pain in the backside, for sure, but as a punter you’re actually on pretty safe ground financially in most instances.

Before we dive into the main bulk of this article we do want to add a disclaimer: some bookies will differ in how the proceed in these situations. We’ve included some industry standard info, but not all bookies will follow this to the letter, so the info may differ. As ever, if you are unsure, our advice is to contact the bookmaker directly to get an official ruling.

However, this article will show you what you need to look out for and the information within could also be a factor when deciding which bookmaker you want to bet with. For example, if one bookmaker offers a full refund for abandoned matches, but others take it a losing bet (very rare), then it’s obvious which bookmaker you want to choose.

Now, you might be wondering what the difference between an abandoned, postponed, and cancelled match is, so let’s look at them all individually.

Abandoned Matches

Water Logged Pitch

An abandoned match is where the game did get under way but then failed to finish. This means that the game has officially kicked off before an event has occurred serious enough for the referee to call a halt to the proceedings and shut it down.

There are a number of reasons why games get abandoned, but the most common is the good old British weather. Waterlogged pitches from excessive rainfall, and even snow, are two of the most likely candidates here. Games can get started under pretty ropey conditions, but if the conditions worsen pitches can become unsafe or unplayable.

Other reasons can include things like crowd trouble and even major injuries to players. There have been several cases of this in the past few years and we talk more about a couple of these later in this piece.

From a betting point of view, if a game becomes abandoned all bets that haven’t already been settled will be deemed void and you will get your original stake back. Any markets or bets that have already been settled will remain settled and your bet will have either won or lost.

For example, if you place a bet on the correct score of 1-0 but in the 75th minute the game is abandoned for a waterlogged pitch, the market has not yet been settled so the bet will go down as void and you will get your money back.

However, if you place a bet on the first goalscorer in that same match and a goal has been scored before the game is abandoned, then your bet will stand as the market has been settled.

There may be times where players are removed from the field of play for an extended period of time. We’ve seen it happen for things like excessive fog or even heavy downpours, but it could be for a number of reasons. If this happens, the game is essentially still active, but bookmakers state that the game will need to be completed by midnight local time or it will be classed as abandoned. This may seem a ridiculous rule to include, but in places like Spain they often play games quite late at night with 10pm kick offs, meaning that they cut this timeframe very close even without stoppage time in play.

Postponed Matches

Empty Stadium Seats

A postponed match is where the game never gets started and no markets ever go live at the original starting time. The starting time is the important thing here as this is what differentiates a postponed match from a cancelled match.

A postponed match is one that at some point will need to be replayed. For example, if a Premier League match gets postponed before the start of the game, then at some point down the line it will need to be rescheduled, otherwise these two teams will play one less game than everyone else and the contest will be unfair.

Postponements can also occur for a number of different reasons. Crowd trouble at the start of the game is fairly common, but the most common has to be… yet again… that of the weather. Heavy rain, snow, and even excessive heat can be factors as to why games don’t go ahead.

The rules for postponed bets are a little more varied from bookmaker to bookmaker, and this is because the games will still be going ahead. Most bookies will carry existing bets across to the rearranged date and time, so long as that game is played within 48 hours. The bookmakers deem that this timeframe is short enough to not have a significant effect on the odds that were previously set out – it’s not enough time to see a key player return from injury and get a 3 match ban, for example.

However, if the game is not rearranged within 48 hours or the date has not been confirmed within 3 hours of the original start time, then the bookmaker will void all bets on that market and punters will get their stake back. Any games that are to be rearranged at different venues will be made void as well.

It’s worth noting that games that are moved for TV scheduling purposes are not classed as postponed games, so all bets will stand. These changes are usually made several weeks prior to the game kicking off so it isn’t often a problem, but even if it is shorter notice, as long as the teams are playing at the same venue then these bets will roll over.

The key thing to note from the bookmaker is the timeframe for the rearranged fixture. We’ve stated 48 hours as this is pretty common, but it can vary from 24 to 72 hours with some bookies, so worth checking. Ideally you want the shorter timeframe as too many variables can change over a longer period of time.

Cancelled Matches

Cancelled Football Match

Cancelled matches are actually quite rare, occurring most commonly with friendlies as they don’t require an official outcome. League or cup games will always need a result for fairness, so this is why abandoned and postponed betting rules exist.

A cancelled game is one that doesn’t start and then doesn’t get rescheduled or played at all.

If a game does get cancelled, then the bookmaker will simply void all bets and then stakes will be returned. Not many bookies actually reference a cancelled game in their terms so don’t worry if you don’t find reference to it; they would most likely follow the procedure for a postponed match, which means that after 48 hours bets would be voided anyway.

Games can get cancelled for a number of reasons, with one of them being that the game was only a temporary fixture anyway. Some leagues around the world have breaks within the season, often in winter, and then arrange friendlies before the season starts back up again to get the players match fit. These games can get cancelled pretty quickly depending on the workload of the players prior to the break. For example, teams that have had long cup runs may not wish to play additional friendly matches preferring to rest instead, so they will cancel these friendly matches.

Examples of Abandoned or Postponed Games

As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, games get called off all the time around the world and for a wide range of reasons. Here are some of the higher profile and more interesting times when this has occurred.

April 2017 – Dortmund v Monaco

Dortmund Team Bus
BEN Rijks / CC BY-SA

In 2017 one of the craziest incidents leading up to any football fixture occurred when the Dortmund team bus was attacked, and a bomb went off injuring several people within the vicinity. Dortmund were set to play their Champions League tie with Monaco at home when the bomb was detonated in a bush planted en route.

It was set up by a man who had tried to drive down the share price of the club, who was later arrested and then imprisoned for 14 years for attempted murder. Marc Barta was the only player injured in the attack, with a policeman also being hurt.

The game was immediately postponed until the authorities could figure out what was going on, but it was cleared up quickly and the game played out the following day, meaning that any bets that had been placed were carried over. Given the severity of the attack, the 24-hour turnaround time was deemed a little short and Dortmund were not happy with the decision, but did eventually agree to play after pressure from UEFA.

March 2012 – Bolton v Tottenham Hotspur

Fabrice Muamba Tribute
Mattchad / CC BY-SA

One of the most terrifying scenes on a football field occurred in March 2012 in an FA Cup tie between Bolton and Spurs. During the first half, Fabrice Muamba dropped down in the middle of the pitch after suffering a massive heart attack.

Muamba received medical attention on the pitch and it was later reported that his heart had stopped beating for 78 minutes. He was in intensive care for almost two weeks before making a full recovery, although instantly stating his retirement from football.

The referee, Howard Webb, quite rightly abandoned the game, and due to the severity of the event Bolton’s next league match was postponed as well. No replay happened within the 48 hour period, so any unsettled bets were voided.

Feb-March 2018 – The Beast From The East

Beast from the East Snow on Pitch
Credit: Richard Humphrey Geograph

At the beginning of 2018, the UK suffered one of the worst cold spells in years, causing many football matches up and down the country to be temporarily called off.

This would have been a bit of a nightmare for rescheduling as there were a number of games that needed to be fitted in somewhere else, and from the bettors point of view the exact details of each match would have dictated whether their bets were carried over or voided.

Among those affected were Derby vs Cardiff, Gillingham vs Blackburn, and Ipswich vs Hull, but the cancellations were not limited to football, with many other sports also battening down the hatches.

The bad weather made it unsafe for the games to go ahead as planned, both for the players and the fans who would be travelling in these harsh conditions.