SPREAD BETTING is not for the faint-hearted. But it is probably the betting of the future. The reason, apart from being so exciting, is that it is mainly conducted via television.

In spread betting you do not forecast the result, as in a regular football match - say, Manchester United versus Newcastle in the cup final. You bet on the margin of the result, that is the number of goals by which one side wins or loses, or various other bets such as the time of the first goal.

Manchester United are currently 0.7-1 goal favourites with I.G. Index . If they win by more than that margin, say three-nil, the better wins two times his stake (3 minus 1). Conversely, if you think that Newcastle are not such an underdog, you can sell Manchester United. If the 90-minute result was a draw, the bettor would win 0.7 times his stake. The more right you are, the more you win. And, the more wrong you are, the more you lose.

Every wager in spread betting, quoted like a share on the stock market, can go up or down. What's more, you can buy or sell according to how the price moves, "in running". For example, during the recent Juventus-Manchester United match, the home side opened at 0.3-0.6. But when the Italian side went two up after 11 minutes, the price moved to 2.1-2.4 - giving a very juicy return for backers of Man U when they won by a goal (2.1 head start plus 1 goal = 3.1 return).

It is both complicated and risky - which has prompted a new publication entitled Spread Betting Weekly. "Our prime editorial objective is to provide advice (tips) on spread markets in the current week and to review and advise on long-term markets," says Nick Blackwell, the publisher.

Every tip sheet is open to the obvious question: "If you're so smart, why aren't you backing winners instead of advising other people?" Nevertheless, this leaflet could be useful to novice punters. Subscriptions to Spread Betting Weekly (PO Box 436, London SW1W 8HT; fax 0171-730 2381) cost pounds 95 for 12 months or pounds 24 for 12 issues.