The Art of the Bore Draw: Exploring Football’s Greatest Disappointment

AC Milan lift the 2003 Champions League after defeating Juventus in the final at Old Trafford. The game – which finished 0-0 – is widely regarded as one of the worst finals of all time. Credit: Soccer illustrated under CC License

In the year or so since I started this blog, several friends – particularly those with no close association to football – have inquired about its name. What is a bore draw? And what makes you a supposed “specialist” in them? Questions, it seems, that require urgent and immediate attention.

So in that spirit (and in the spirit of getting as much ranking content out there as possible), here’s a breakdown of the term, as well as the rationale behind why I chose it.

What Is a Bore Draw?

A bore draw is, in a nutshell, a frustratingly dull football match that (usually) ends 0-0. It’s the sporting equivalent of an unseasoned risotto at an overhyped restaurant, or the accidental, unknowing purchase of sparkling water. Hallmarks of a bore draw often consist of:

  • Very little in the way of attacking play or goal scoring chances (for either side)
  • A particularly fussy referee who needlessly stops play every 30 seconds
  • One (or both) side(s) displaying a total lack of quality on the ball
  • One (or both) side(s) setting up in a rigid defensive formation with the only objective being not to lose

There’s no hard and fast way to predict if a football match is going to be a bore draw, but games where there is a lot at stake (i.e. playoffs, cup finals, and internationals) tend to be cagey, with neither side wanting to lose.

However, it’s worth pointing out that just because a match finishes scoreless, it doesn’t automatically make it a bore draw. There have been plenty of highly entertaining, engrossing games that have finished 0-0 – Everton’s recent goalless draw with Liverpool being a prime example.

Bore Draws in Groundhopping

In groundhopping culture, attending a match that finishes 0-0 is a minor irony. This is because, as a neutral with no emotional attachment to either side, the groundhopper at least wants to be entertained and, ideally, see some goals.

In addition, travelling halfway across the country (or, as is often the case for me, halfway across a continent) to see a terrible match can make for some uncomfortable self-reflection. “Did I really just travel three hours each way, ignore my wife, and spend 50 odd quid just to see two crap teams produce that?”

So, Why ‘Bore Draw Specialist’?

Although the name suggests I see a lot of bore draws, my records indicate that only some 7% of the games I’ve attended have actually ended 0-0 – which, conveniently, is around the same number of Premier League and Championship matches that finish goalless.

In other words, I’m not a specialist at all. As with many aspects of my life, I’m right in the middle of the curve.

But thanks to a trip to Glasgow back in 2013, the name still seems appropriate.

My father and I had headed to Glasgow to see Wales play a World Cup qualifier against Scotland on a comically cold Friday night at Hampden Park. Thanks to goals from Aaron Ramsey and Hal Robson-Kanu, Wales won 2-1, although my two abiding memories of the evening (dulled, it has to be said, by that weekend’s excessive consumption of Belhaven Best) were the relentless torrent of head-on sleet, and the 45-minute post-match walk/ice skate from Hampden back to central Glasgow.

Points in the bag and hypothermia averted, the remainder of the weekend actually represented my first steps into groundhopping: going to see a match, just because. At that point, I’d visited dozens of grounds following Cardiff, but the simple and obvious thrill of going to matches I had no vested emotional interest in was still yet to manifest. Luckily, there were two plum pieces of footballing fruit waiting to be picked.

Over Saturday morning’s breakfast, a quick perusal through the morning paper revealed that Rangers – at this point still performing penitence in the fourth tier – were at home to Stirling Albion at 12pm. And across the city at 3pm, Partick Thistle were hosting Livingston. A groundhopper’s dream; three games and three grounds in just over 22 hours.

So off we set straight to Ibrox, one of the UK’s most vibrant and historic stadiums, to surely see the Gers rack up a cricket score. Despite our Celtic-supporting taxi driver’s disdain for our destination (“the fuck ye wannae go there fir?”) and the claim-to-fame-ism of the Rangers club shop’s young attendant (“David Marshall went to my school, you know”), we got our tickets and were in.

Front gates of Ibrox in Scotland. Main cover of what is a bore draw
Credit: Johnelwaq under CC License

Ten minutes passed and… nothing. 20 minutes. A half-chance. A thwarted break. And then half time, with barely a single shot on goal to note. The only entertainment that had been served up at this point was the small collection of Albion fans in the near corner, who had proudly unfurled a large banner declaring themselves “Champions League Winners, 2022”.

Around the 80-minute mark, with the second half somehow managing to be worse than the first, my father called time. Despite a misleading blanket of spring sunshine, the previous evening’s cold was still potent, and both of us were struggling to feel our feet. “Let’s give Partick a miss,” he offered as we headed out of the ground. “We’ll get a pint and go sit in front of a fire.”

Having endured through one of, if not the, most boring match I’d ever seen, it was a fair plan. And in retrospect, it was a pleasant afternoon. Dented, a little, when we found out Partick Thistle had won 6-1 and we’d missed seven goals, but still pleasant.

And thus the name was born. The pattern was set in motion. If there’s a decision to be made, I’ll likely end up choosing the one that results in zero goals, zero entertainment, and a 50% chance of frostbite. Not always, but likely.