How Often Do Football Matches End Nil Nil?

Nil nil in football

Nil-nil, nil nil, 0-0, however you write it and whatever you call it, a game of football without goals is typically regarded as the most boring result possible. Football is all about goals and yet, as a relatively low-scoring game (compared with, say, basketball, American football or rugby), it is far from uncommon for contests to end with neither sides having scored a goal. That can seem like anathema to US sports fans, or those not familiar with the beautiful game but just how often do football matches end in a 0-0 bore-draw?

We’ll look at some hard numbers in this article, explain what factors affect such things and how you might use this to your advantage when betting on football. We’ll also take a look at any betting offers that might be relevant. So, let’s start with the key question? What proportion of games end nil nil?

What Percentage of Football Matches Finish 0-0?

It is impossible to give one answer to this question because the ratio of games that finish with the score 0-0 changes over time. In addition, of course, it varies from league to league and country to country. In this feature we’ll focus on the last 20 years or so, and on the biggest leagues in Europe, in particular the Premier League. Note that we are talking about men’s football here as there is a greater quantity of data and it is still far more popular when it comes to spectating and betting.

A score of 0-0 is usually considered to be the best result for the bookies as most people like to bet in hope of goals, rather than fear of them. This typically means that people overestimate how many goals there will be in a given game in ways that span a whole host of markets. As such, when 0-0 happens, the vast majority, if not all, bets tend to lose on markets, such as BTTS, over/under goals (not under, obviously, but fewer people bet on this), correct score betting, goalscorer bets and many more.

So, if 0-0 is such a great result for bookies, one might assume that backing it would be a good option for punters. There might actually be some truth in that and we will look at that idea shortly. For now, let us return to just how often bets on 0-0 can be expected to land though. The link between this percentage and the typical odds on 0-0 will essentially determine whether or not it is “a good bet”.

But of course, things are not so simple, because the odds on 0-0 will vary from one game to another, in theory in line with the chance of such an outcome occurring. Clearly, deciding when 0-0 is good value is key and again this is something we shall consider shortly. But if you blindly backed 0-0 in every game, just how often might you win?

0-0 Stats Current Premier League Season

Chelsea Vs Liverpool
Chelsea vs Liverpool (Cosmin Iftode / Bigstockphoto.com)

As a starting point, let us look at the current Premier League season. That means we are looking at the first third, approximately, of the strange 2020-21 campaign. At the time of writing (January 2021), there have been 11 0-0 draws from 163 Premier League matches. That means we have seen a 0-0 bore draw once every 15 games (or once every 14.81 games, to be exact).

In a season in which VAR-awarded penalties and other factors have generally been conducive to high-scoring contests, we have seen an above-average 459 goals thus far (2.82 per game). Even so, we have still seen a draw roughly twice every three rounds of Premier League matches.

General Premier League 0-0 Ratio

We can quite easily analyse recent seasons from the Premier League to see how often such games have finished nil nil. The table below looks at the five most recent full campaigns and shows the number of games that finished goalless, as well as the percentage of the total matches with which that corresponded.

Season Games Ending 0-0 % of 380-Game Total
2019-20 21 5.5
2018-19 22 5.8
2017-18 32 8.4
2016-17 27 7.1
2015-16 32 8.4

Based on the stats above we see that there have been between 21 and 32 0-0 draws in the last five completed seasons in the English top flight. The mean average in that period is 26.8 games and with all of these campaigns being 20-team, 380-match ones, that means that, on average, 7.1% of matches in that time have ended nil nil.

Expressed another way, we can expect to see a bore draw around once every 14 games, which is very much in line with the current statistics for 2020-21. So, now we have an idea of roughly how often Premier League teams draw nil nil, let us consider how that compares to stats in other major leagues.

How Often Do Games End 0-0 in the Big Five Leagues?

Bundesliga Match in Germany
Bundesliga Match in Germany (katatonia82 / Bigstockphoto.com)

Along with the English Premier League, the following are considered to be part of Europe’s “Big Five”:

  • Spain’s La Liga
  • Italy’s Serie A
  • Germany’s Bundesliga
  • France’s Ligue 1

The first four are very hard to dispute, with Spain, England, Italy and Germany (not necessarily in that order) dominating European competitions. They lead the way by some distance, for example, in terms of Champions League victories. In the most prestigious European competition of them all, Spanish clubs’ 18 wins and the 13 from English sides total just three fewer than those of all other nations combined. In the Europa League it is a similar picture, with Spain, England and Italy producing 30 winners, compared to 19 for the other nations.

Interestingly, no French side has ever lifted the UEFA Cup/Europa League and only Marseille have ever won the UCL. Dutch and Portuguese sides are well ahead of French clubs in both competitions but France’s place among the elite is secured down to the success of the national side, the crowds Ligue 1 attracts, the finances of its clubs, the competitiveness/strength in depth of the French top flight and also the great players that have come through its ranks.

Anyway, returning to the point at hand, let us look at some stats for 0-0 draws in these other elite domestic leagues, albeit with minor apologies to the excluded Eredivisie in the Netherlands and Portuguese Primeira Liga. Let us start with Germany, where we can see that in the most recent fully completed season, 2019-20, a huge 96.1% of games saw at least one goal scored. The stats for 0-0s in each of the four non-Premier League divisions are:

  • Bundesliga – 3.9%
  • La Liga – 8.7%
  • Serie A – 5.5%
  • Ligue 1 – 7.5%

Of course, these stats are only from one season but they once again support the broader picture we have seen in the Premier League. We saw an average of 7.1% games ending 0-0 in the EPL over five seasons, whilst the average for the other members of the Big Five is 6.4% (based on the 2019-20 campaign alone).

The variance between those leagues is quite striking. We can see that there were very few nil nils in Germany but just under twice as many in Ligue 1 and 123% more in La Liga. That may surprise some who think of La Liga as being very exciting and full of goals but of course we should remember that these are numbers taken from just a single season.

That said, when we expand the data set to look at the three most recently completed seasons of the big five European leagues (this time including the Premier League as well), we can see the stats bearing out. The table below shows the percentage of nil nil draws for each of the divisions from 2017-18 to 2019-20, along with the average within the three year period.

League % of 0-0s 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 Average
La Liga 7.4 7.4 8.7 7.8
Serie A 7.4 9 5.5 7.3
Premier League 8.4 5.8 5.5 6.6
Ligue 1 5.5 8.3 5.7 6.5
Bundesliga 6.8 5.8 4.2 5.6
Average 7.1 7.3 5.9 6.8

NB – The average percentages for leagues and seasons are calculated using the average for each season/league (so an average of the averages, so to speak). Due to the disruption of the 2019-20 season and different leagues having a different number of fixtures, these averages differ slightly from the strict numerical averages based on the true number of 0-0 results per games played.

Looking even further back in time, once again, we see 0-0 draws happening at this same sort of rate. Analysis of the Big Five leagues between 2003 and 2012, covering 10 fully completed regular seasons, showed that nil nil occurred 8.5% of the time. In that particular period, Ligue 1 was a big-hitter for bore draws, with more than 11% of games ending goalless. The Bundesliga saw far fewer such results at 6.7%, with the other three divisions falling slightly higher or lower than the overall average.

To broaden our research further still, away from just Europe’s most prestigious five divisions, in the 2019-20 Championship season, the English second tier, 94.2% of games saw at least a goal, meaning that 5.8% ended 0-0. In the top flight in the Netherlands, 6% of matches finished without a goal, whilst in Portugal’s top flight that number was 7.8%.

These are numbers that all look very familiar. The key takeaway really is that once again, as a broad, general figure, we see support for the idea that nil nil draws will typically occur once every 14 to 15 games.

Have the Stats Changed Over Time?

The incidence of nil nil draws will vary from year to year but in recent times has stayed around the same sort of figure quoted above. If we go a long way back into the early years of the game, when matches were typically much higher scoring, nil nil draws did occur with significantly less frequency.

However, in terms of analysing football as it is played now, and with relevance to betting on football in the present day, such data is irrelevant. Unless, that is, you happen to have a DeLorean with special powers (and maybe a sports almanac).

That said, the information we have looked at above would suggest that we are perhaps seeing fewer 0-0 draws than we did 10 to 20 years ago. As detailed in relation to the Big Five leagues, nil nils occurred around once every 12 games between 2003 and 2012, but more like once every 15 games between 2017 and 2020.

There is perhaps a general feeling among fans that, to express the sentiment in clichéd form, “defending is becoming a lost art”. There may be a degree of truth in that and with rule changes increasingly favouring attackers, and the impact of VAR, perhaps we will see fewer and fewer 0-0s.

At the moment, it may be a little too early to say whether this is a natural variance in the incidence of 0-0s or a change that is here to stay and perhaps increase. It is definitely a situation worth monitoring from a betting point of view. Some argue that the game’s administrators are keen to make football more attacking and more exciting and that the way to do that is by tweaking the game to make it higher scoring. This would certainly lead to fewer bore draws and could create opportunities for the canny punter who can cash in before the typical odds register the change.

Is Betting On 0-0 a Good Bet?

0-0 on football pitch

So, now you know how often you can expect to see a game where both sides fail to achieve the one thing that is imperative to winning a game of football, we can consider whether or not 0-0 can be deemed a good bet. Let us start by returning to an idea we mentioned earlier. If 0-0 is a good result for the bookmakers, does that mean it is a wise bet for punters to make?

Linked to this is the concept that human psychology means most punters prefer to bet on the positive action of a goal, rather than bet against or it, or wager on, essentially, nothing happening. Whilst a small number of professional gamblers and large, often Asian, betting syndicates, have a huge influence on the odds for any given game, there can be no ignoring the impact of hundreds of thousands of smaller, recreational punters too.

The vast majority of such bettors, even many of the savvier, shrewder ones, will still tend to be influenced by the basic psychology of betting in hope. As such, this may sometimes create value in betting on 0-0 (and other related markets, such as under 2.5 goals and both teams not to score).

Such value in the market may not last long and soon be snapped up but as a very general rule, there is a degree of logic to the suggestion that bets like 0-0 should offer decent value. Of course, whilst we can talk about general theories, and analyse average odds for a market and compare those with the average price, the fact remains that we cannot label any bet as “a good bet”.

Each game must be assessed on its unique merits with a whole host of factors influencing the likelihood of any contest ending 0-0. Once you have considered all these variables, you must then question whether the odds offer value, which in simple terms mean they are bigger than they “should” be, based on the probabilities.

Typical Odds for a Nil Nil Draw

As said, the odds for a bore draw will vary, sometimes fairly dramatically, for reasons we will discuss below. However, if you are totally unfamiliar with this market, let us give you a rough idea of what sort of odds to expect.

We looked at a selection of Premier League games from January 2020. Using the best odds from a wide range of the best major UK betting sites, you can see the various matches and 0-0 prices below:

Fixture Odds on 0-0
Sheffield Utd v Newcastle 7/1
Burnley v Man Utd 15/1
Wolves v Everton 8/1
Man City v Brighton 28/1
Aston Villa v Tottenham 18/1
Arsenal v Crystal Palace 12/1
Fulham v Chelsea 16/1

Clearly, there is quite a wide range of odds even from just seven games, with the price for 0-0 ranging from 7/1 up to a whopping 28/1. It is perhaps a little unfair to disclose the average price here as it just so happens that the fixtures that are currently available to analyse include a number of games with a very strong favourite. Such matches will tend to have higher odds for 0-0 because it is deemed highly likely that the stronger side will at the very least score a goal.

None the less, based on the games above we can see an average price for 0-0 of just under 15/1. In general it is probably safe to say that the odds for nil nil for the vast majority of games fall within a band between 7/1 and 15/1. If we wanted to give a more precise, single price for 0-0, then 10/1 is generally a good figure to assume.

10/1 implies a probability of an event occurring around 9% of the time. As we have seen, in general we can expect a nil nil to occur around 7% of the time, which would suggest that 0-0 may not be such a good bet. Once again though, we return to the point that it is crucial to assess each game individually, rather than assume that any 0-0 with odds of around 14/1 (implying a probability of 6.7%) is a good value bet.

What Factors Affect the Chances of a Game Ending 0-0

There are many factors that affect the chances of nil nil being a winning bet. Really, just about everything you might consider when trying to predict the correct score or the match result is relevant. However, in particular, the following things are worth considering when it comes to whether or not you want to back a 0-0 outcome.

  1. Match Odds – In general, games predicted to be close, with no strong favourite, will have shorter odds for 0-0. Games with a big favourite will typically have long odds for 0-0.
  2. Attack or Defence – A game between two sides with powerful attacks and poor defences is least likely to be 0-0. In contrast a game between two defensively strong teams who struggle to score is the most likely to end nil nil.
  3. Context – If a draw suits both teams, 0-0 becomes much more likely. This is more of a factor in group situations in major international competitions and the competitions like the Champions and Europa Leagues but can also apply at the end of a league season.
  4. Team nNews – Linked with our second point. If both teams are missing all their strikers and creative players, 0-0 is more likely. If goalkeepers and defenders are injured or rested, it is less so.
  5. Weather – Games played on muddy pitches in wet, windy conditions tend to be scrappier, with fewer goals scored. Such conditions may lead to mistakes but in general nil nil is more likely to occur.
  6. Referee & VAR – In modern times the advent of VAR means we have seen more penalties. This trend has reduced somewhat due to changing law interpretations so is worth monitoring. Even so, as things stand games using VAR, and ones where the referee is one who has historically given a lot of penalties, are probably less likely to end 0-0.
  7. Form/Trends & Streaks – Related to some of the factors discussed, as with all football bets, form is a vital consideration. Two teams may generally be a high scorers but if they have both struggled for goals in recent times then 0-0 could be worth backing.

0-0 Games & Betting Offers

Nil nil goals betting

Now that we know more about how often games end nil nil and what sort of odds to expect, it is worth mentioning that there are a number of betting promotions related to the bore draw. These are offered from time to time by various bookmakers and are well worth looking out for.

They come in various forms but the most common is a money back refund if the game ends 0-0. Typically if you place a bet on a named market (these vary from one bookie to another) and it loses, you get your money back if the game ends without a goal having been scored. This is money back is sometimes paid as cash but more often it is in the form of a free bet so you can have another bite of the cherry.

Bet On No Goalscorer, Not 0-0

Studying the stats and form, analysing the odds to try and find the value bets on 0-0… it’s all a bit like hard work, isn’t it? Using free bets and 0-0 money back offers is a whole lot easier but the simplest thing you can do to improve your chances of winning betting on nil nil is to not bet on it!

We probably don’t mean what you might think we do when we say that though. You can still profit from a 0-0 but placing your bets on the First (or Last) Goalscorer market is often a better option that making a Correct Score wager on 0-0. Just go to that market and make a bet on “No Goalscorer”.

That is because whilst the odds are often, though not always, the same, if you back No Goalscorer, you will also win if the only goal or goals in the clash are own goals. It might seem strange that the odds are the same but it is certainly true and this is a nice little trick. Back No Goalscorer and the game might end 0-0, in which case you win. But if it finished 1-0 thanks to an own goal, you are still a winner.

Of course, it is very rare that a game will finish with the only goals being scored at the wrong end of the pitch. Indeed, this is largely why the odds tend to be identical to 0-0 prices. None the less, by using the goalscorer markets rather than the more typical 0-0 CS you do gain a small edge and every little most certainly helps when it comes to betting.