Wednesday, 29 December 2010

some substance behind the SPL fixing allegations?

Take it with a pinch of salt though, after all, it comes from the Daily Mail..

Gambler in spot-fix claim is linked to England stars

A gambler with close social ties to Premier League and England footballers is among those under investigation for involvement in an alleged ‘spot-fixing’ betting sting.

The Gambling Commission and the Scottish FA have been passed details of multiple ‘irregular’ bets and attempted bets, many of them allegedly emanating from Merseyside, on a red card being shown during the game between Motherwell and Hearts in the Scottish Premier League earlier this month. Several betting firms have offered evidence.

Motherwell’s Liverpool-born midfielder, Steve Jennings, who was sent off during the game for swearing at the referee, has denied any involvement in improper betting.

The investigation has been described to me by some involved in the ‘integrity process’ as ‘a test of how seriously the Commission and sporting bodies want to take these issues’.

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New figures from the Gambling Commission show a surge in reports of ‘irregular’ betting across British sport since April.

More than 50 cases have been referred in eight months, with football cases prominent. Most are understood to be ‘low level’, namely League Two or non-League.

The authorities have evidence to suggest that at least two matches were fixed: Accrington v Bury in League Two on May 3, 2008, and Grays Athletic v Forest Green Rovers in the Conference on April 26, 2009.


No surprise really, it's the same method fixers use in other sports - get friendly with players in an informal setting, gradually build a relationship and then make improper suggestions...

Monday, 27 December 2010

RIP Australian cricket

There's no hiding behind the facts. Australia have been completely outplayed by England in this Ashes series, an England side that aren't best in the world either.

The best thing Cricket Australia can do now is give the current team a finale in Sydney, push Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich into Test retirement and commit to a plan to be ready for the 2013 Ashes. They must look further than next summer or the next series - the depth of players currently isn't there in Australia, they need to start sweeping out the dead wood who consistently underperform - Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson etc and not let them back into the Test XI unless they show sustained form at a lower level, above and beyond their rivals. Phil Hughes is to be stamped 'NTPFAA' (Never To Play For Australia Again), his technique is far too flawed for international cricket.

A sustained period of success and the attraction of Twenty20 cricket has damaged Australia's cricketing future. Massaging the ego of Ricky Ponting, one of the game's best batsmen of all-time but a very average captain, has also hurt the country dearly. Giving him the opportunity to lose the Ashes three times shows the selectors have no balls.

Arrogance, flawed techniques and impatience have allowed a handy, but not exceptional England side to dominate Australia. Some of the dismissals have been due to sheer quality from the English bowlers, but not many. The majority have just been down to inferior decision making, a symptom of losing the focus required for the longer version of the game.

There should be a lot of changes in the Australian set-up after this series, from the administrators and selectors, down to the players, and then once they make their bed, they should lie in it, and commit to a programme. This may mean sacrificing series against India or South Africa in order to deveop our best squad long-term. If that's the case, then so be it. There's no point bringing in new blood, then chucking them out after two matches. They must be given some time to consolidate if they have some sustained form at first-class level in Australia.

It could be a long wait for Australian success again, it might have to be painful for a few years before we have a settled and clear best XI again.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Paddy Power acquires remaining shares in Sportsbet

After initially buying a majority share of leading Australian bookmaker Sportsbet, the successful Irish firm has decided to acquire the remaining shares and take full control.

Paddy Power to buy out Sportsbet

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has agreed to buy the remaining shares in Australian betting company Sportsbet, giving it full control of the group.

Paddy Power will pay 132.6m Australian dollars ($133m; £86.2m) for the 39.2% stake that it does not already own.

Paddy Power first bought 51% of Sportsbet in 2009.

The overall buyout, which increases its exposure to online betting in Australia, is expected to complete by the end of February 2011.

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Patrick Kennedy, Paddy Power's chief executive, described Sportsbet as "a cracking business".

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

worldwide fame!


Well, not exactly, but last weekend I had a guest appearance on 'Sport & Spill' (Sport and Bets) on Norwegian channel TV2, who have the English Premier League rights, as the betting expert. A lot of fun, all went well, they seemed happy with it (my bits were in English, everything else in Norwegian), hopefully did well enough to receive another invitation next year so I can see the city of Bergen in full bloom, rather than covered in snow. Great place to visit, cheap flights available from Gatwick when the weather returns to normal. Luckily I managed to fly out on Friday just before the snow arrived, and then returned early Monday morning without a hitch. A few hours either way and it would have been chaos!

Ladbrokes chasing 888 again

Four years after pulling out of a proposed deal because of concerns about US legality, Ladbrokes PLC have confirmed they are in discussions to buy 888 Holdings. It's been a tough few years for 888 who were valued at 240p per share back in 2006, but last week before the announcement were south of 50p (now 56p after peaking around 60p). According to this report though, Sportingbet (who are known to be looking around for merger and acquisition targets after recent talks with Unibet) and Harrah's could be sniffing around as well....


Meanwhile, in other trading news, Goldman Sachs have upgraded their Betfair rating from neutral to buy. Not much conflict of interest there considering they were the investment bank who floated them, and are now probably desperate to save face as the company trades more than £3 below IPO price, and over £5 below the peak during restricted trading.....

Thursday, 16 December 2010

green green green....

Ah, biathlon. A glorious sport for in-running trading :)


Didn't have a big balance to play with today, most of my funds are tied up in cricket or SPOTY markets, but it wasn't too hard to generate a lovely green book with a fund of about £80.

has match-fixing found the SPL?

Worrying signs north of the border as Scottish football has had some very unusual matches of late, backed up by suspicious betting patterns. The common denominator in both matches: Hearts.

Motherwell midfielder Steve Jennings is in the spotlight this week after his red card in Tuesday night's match against Hearts was predicted by a lot of punters, particularly new ones, wanting to have bets well above the average for this usually trivial market. Several bookmakers have reported clusters of bets being placed on 'A Red Card to be awarded' at 10/1 on this match, far and above the average for a televised SPL match, with a widespread of accts, lumpy bets and numerous new accounts, particularly from the Liverpool area, where Jennings has links from one of his previous clubs, Tranmere.

SPL - Jennings in betting probe over red card

Motherwell midfielder Steve Jennings has denied any wrongdoing after bookmakers began an investigation into betting patterns over the red card he picked up against Hearts at Fir Park on Tuesday.

The Association of British Bookmakers acted after a number of bets were placed on there being a red card during Motherwell's 2-1 defeat.

Jennings, after being booked by referee Stevie O'Reilly for a foul on Kevin Kyle, was shown a straight red card seven minutes from the end after putting his hand on the official's shoulder and speaking to him about a rejected penalty claim.



Hearts were also involved in a suspicious match last month against St Johnstone. Hearts won the match 2-0, but it was the first goal that caused the controversy. Kevin Kyle scored from the spot, but the penalty itself was given away by Jamie Adams, whose sister Kyle got engaged to during that week.

Sounds innocent you say, purely coincidence? This game wasn't available for live betting with many European firms as it wasn't televised, but Asian bookies who bet on just about any match via the RunningBall service (live spotters at the ground), had Hearts priced significantly under the standard pre-match odds, even after an hour when the score was 0-0. By that stage the draw should have shortened significantly, pushing the odds for both teams out noticeably. Generally, these price moves are all automated by algorithms according to the score and the clock. When they aren't, it invariably means something dodgy is up. You'll never get an official statement out of Asian bookies, but the prices tell the story. As McCririck would say 'they knew', but this time it might actually be right.

So what's the explanation behind it? Is it football's version of spot-fixing, or perhaps it's part of an evil plan to push Hearts up the table to increase their sale price or get them into the Europa League. Perhaps Jennings wanted to get pissed at Xmas didn't fancy playing against Celtic and Rangers over Xmas-New Year and told a few folks about it.

Who knows, other than there will be investigations into this, but knowing most of the lame football match-fixing investigations in the past in the UK, I doubt we'll see any guilty party locked up for a considerable period of time....

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

would you buy a user car from this lot?

From the tail of a Guardian article discussing the substantial fall in Betfair shares today:

The slump in Betfair shares is another awkward issue for Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank which arranged the gambling company's float. It touted Betfair as a high growth investment at £13.00 in October but shareholders have now lost about a quarter of their investments. The investment bank's name was also on the ticket of this year's flotations of online grocer Ocado whose shares are down 12% and technology group Promethean World where the stock has fallen by 70%. The bank insists that it has a better record on flotations than rivals.

A sample of three probably isn't a fair assessment but considering they are blamed by some as being a significant cause of the global recession, it's not doing their reputation any favours. But it cuts staff bonuses by £5k (of an average £500k), then I doubt anyone inside will care a great deal....

Friday, 10 December 2010

betting industry news roundup

Sportingbet Australia are banking on a change to betting in-running laws with this move to develop an IPTV betting platform. Racing provides the lion's share of their business but the big potential for growth is with sports betting. However due to a ludicrous piece of legislation, which is unlikely to be amended during the term of a minority government, you can only bet in-running on a sporting event via a voice call from within Australia.

The Queensland govt needs more tax revenue so the easiest way to do that is put more pokies in the casinos. Evil bloody things that should be outlawed but they never will. The politicians hide behind the fact that it's no more for the state, but the fact is these ones will see far higher footfall than hidden away in a suburban pub, equalling more tax revenue and more damage to the moral fabric of Qld society. At least WA continues to resist the urge.

The bidding for the UK Tote hots up with a consortium fronted by Martin Broughton lining up a bid, to add to the list of BetFred, Sportech and consortiums led by major racing owner Andy Stewart, and another by former Ladbrokes chief Chris Bell. One thing that confuses me about all of this - racing is putting their hand out for a huge chunk of the sale, yet does very little to promote the Tote. Simple changes to a few rules (deadlines for withdrawing horses, consistency in stewards' rulings, encouraging bigger fields, forcing to all jockeys to ride out to the line when prizemoney - i.e. for placings - is involved) would make tote punting far more attractive especially for single race exotics which are the bread & butter of totalisators around the world.

Speaking of totes, it's down to only Tabcorp and Tattersall's for the 2012 Victorian wagering licence renewal, which gives them the exclusive tote pool licence in the state and a monopoly on off-course betting shops. Ladbrokes and a few others were interested in it, but realistically, it was never going to go to a foreign company.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Betfair shares rebounding

Britain starts to thaw out and Betfair's share price starts to rise again. As I surmised last week, the icy weather appeared to be the trigger behind the plunge in price down to a low of 1150p on Friday. Seven days later, it's up over a pound to 1263p.


No different to bookmakers' share prices around Cheltenham, the Grand National and World Cup - good results = expectation of greater profits = share price rises. Loss of revenue via favourites all winning or lack of racing = decline.

Australian racing sets the standard again

Australian racing is right up there with the best of the world on many fronts - the flagship event of Aus racing, the Melbourne Cup gets a local (not national unfortunately) public holiday; the prizemoney at stake considering the number of race meetings held each year; the facilities at Flemington; the press coverage etc... But the one issue where it really stands head and shoulders above UK racing in particular is stewarding and the regard for punters.

National stewards decide to put punters first in overhaul of rules

STEWARDS from around the country emerged from a two-day conference in Launceston with the punter in mind. A revamp of betting deductions issued when horses are scratched late, an overhaul of the rortable jockey-challenge betting, the old commission-agent bogey, etc, were on the agenda.

Leading form student and respected punter Dominic Beirne overhauled the antiquated betting system. ''It will be a much fairer system and most kind to the punter,'' Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy said yesterday.

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Trainers will soon have to report all relevant procedures administered to a horse. At present, wind operations, bone-chip removals, etc, do not have to be reported, although there is a rule where a trainer has to report to stipes anything that may affect a horse's performance in the week before a race. ''The rule currently is in relation to what's happened in the lead-up to a race,'' Murrihy said. ''Stewards believe it should be mandatory to report things like wind operations and this will be made public.''


Also in the article was a mention of changes to a particular betting market, jockey challenge, where rorting has been noticeable in recent months. The Jockey Challenge is betting on the rider with the most wins (but also carries points for placings) across a meeting. Certain people had exploited markets by learning of last minute pick-up rides before the media and betting firms. Some punters won out of it, but THE MAJORITY lost - thus stewards acted to shut down the exploitation to protect the rank and file punter.

Never let it be forgotten - it is the rank and file punter who funds the industry. Piss them off by inconsistencies which see them lose more/faster than they should, and they will find other hobbies to spend their money on.

Here's more on the mechanics of the changes to the non-runner deductions scale.

Deductions - better go coming for punters

“Currently, let’s say you’re betting on a country meeting and they are betting 170 percent, the scale is designed down at 105 to 110 percent and it’s a bonanza for bookmakers.

“This scale takes into account the prices of all horses in the race and the percentage that’s being bet.”

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

FIFA corruption

There's not much left to say on the farce that was the World Cup bidding process. We know they are as bent as a three pound note, so why pander to them and waste millions in doing so?

I don't have a problem with Russia winning the 2018 bid. The country has made rapid progress in hosting big events in recent years, there's plenty of money in local football so facilities are improving all the time and presentation was well organised. I'm quite excited by the prospect of going there. It's the Qatar one which defies all logic. Good luck to them if they can pull it off, but little regard seems to have been paid to fans when they are not inside the air-conditioned stadiums. Getting into a major event stadium can often take over an hour, and in 50C, that's potentially lethal. Are they going to build 200 hotels to accommodate and provide liquid refreshment for foreign fans? Will there be a market for hotel boats moored 2km offshore where all the alcohol is served? And as far as the legacy goes, ripping down the stadiums afterwards doesn't exactly provide much for the future. Still if they've got the bottomless pit of cash to attend to every detail, good luck to them - make the world eat its words.

Like it or not, it's about time we let this issue go. The more we moan about it, the more we all look like sore losers. What doesn't kill you serves to make you stronger apparently. As put before UK parliament on Monday by Roger Godsiff, MP.

Early Day Motion
That this House believes that it would be a good idea if all those individuals and organisations involved in the failed World Cup bid showed a little humility and good grace instead of continually whingeing and moaning about the unfairness of FIFA and the bidding process; recalls that no allegations of unfairness were levelled by the British bid team or media against the International Olympic Committee, which is a similar self-appointed undemocratic organisation, when they awarded the 2012 Olympic Games to London; remembers that the English football authorities were themselves accused of double-dealing and breaking promises by members of UEFA when they attempted a rival bid against Germany for the 2006 World Cup; notes that the English football authorities and the Premier League are only too willing to sanction takeovers of English clubs by billionaire Russian oligarchs and Arab sheikhs and yet are condescendingly dismissive of Russia and Qatar's abilities to host football World Cups; and, while regretting that England was able only to accumulate two votes out of 22, congratulates Russia and Qatar on their success in bringing World Cup football to two parts of the world which have never hosted the World Cup before.


Well said sir.

One last point on FIFA, as printed in the Courier-Mail:

All you need to know about the men who made this decision is that FIFA requested, as a condition if England had mounted a successful bid, exclusion from a range of UK laws including one governing banks and foreign exchange operations.

So, had England hosted the World Cup, FIFA executives were free to move around with sacks of unexplained cash, exempt from the inquisition of customs officers.

We creep, we crawl, we kow-tow, prostrating ourselves at the feet of crummy, puffed-up overlords.



Football is just a sport. It's not the be-all and end-all of the world. It's not even close to the Olympics in terms of recognising sportspeople at the top of their profession, those who bust a gut all year round mostly supporting themselves, rather than overpaid, ethically devoid footballers. I don't hate football, I just hate the hype surrounding it. I'll quite happily watch it, but in terms of the amount of football I watch, it probably comes 10th on my list of sports...

Friday, 3 December 2010

Betfair share price tumbling

Early last week - £15. Now £11.40 and falling. Is the bad UK weather, and thus cancellation of a lot of sporting events, particularly race meetings, the main reason behind it, or have some unfavourable pieces of advice made public by various brokerages hit hard?

Take a look at the price graph yourself, it's not pretty to look at if you are holding shares. A drop after the early flurry of trading was always to be expected with so many smaller shareholders ready to sell up after years of waiting, but the sharpness of the decline has to be concerning for the firm. It's an over-reaction if you ask me - they are making good progress in the US with racing authorities. It will be slow going and the US can only go state-by-state for them, so don't expect a massive surge any time soon. On the other hand, long-term profits should be solid enough for the price not to fall much further....