Friday, 30 September 2011

Betfair copping a hiding in the news this week

First there was Betfair taking money from punters' accounts, thinking they had successfully placed their bets on the huge Tote jackpot day last week, only to find out when they went to check their winnings, that the bets never went through. There is nothing more frustrating for a punter than not knowing whether your bets are on or not. Betfair's policy on tech glitches like this is all about covering their arse, and not compensating customers. Betfair punters rarely place just one bet - often it is a series of bets and trading positions which change frequently, so knowing exactly what your position is at all times is critical. Otherwise, punters might as well just use a regular bookmaker....

Today news broke that Betfair had a customer data breach just before the float and conveniently kept it quiet. However minor it was, if police all over the world were involved, then customers deserve to know. Another bad PR story further eroding Betfair's once pristine, now terminally stained, image.

And yet more high-ranking execs leaving, including the Head of Security who took over just before the data breach occurred.


Working in PR for Betfair at the moment would be like working for the power & gas companies who post massive profits then immediately increase their customer bills. And they will keep copping it until they start focusing on the punter again, like they did when it all began....


(Sorry for infrequent postings, hectic time with work at the moment. Doing a lot of driving commuting rather than by train which would allow me to post by email....)

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Ed Wray the latest to bid farewell to Betfair

There's a time at most big companies when the last of the original founders move on - sometimes it is by choice, other times they are usurped by investors or an involuntary departure in a wooden box was the only way they'd leave.

Ed Wray, Andrew Black, Mark Davies, David Williams (legal) and Jon Cumberlege (operations) were the main five guys at Betfair when I joined way back in 2002 and what a great time it was. An exciting new company putting a rocket up the tired old UK betting industry and wanting to take on the world. The latter quartet have long moved on to enjoy the riches of their involvement, Ed has just announced he will be stepping down as company chairman.

The company is a long way from where it was in those days, some for the good, some for the bad, but you can't argue it has changed the betting industry forever.

I remember first meeting Ed in the old Parsons Green office after an hour chatting to David Williams, the head legal guy for several years, who had been 'interviewing' me with his bare feet up on the desk on a warm London day. Yes, there was once warm weather in London - I believe it was about August 25, 2002!

Ed and I had a great chat about the company, the betting industry and the world - it was easy to work out this was going to be a fantastic firm to work for.

A couple of months later, after finishing a stint of travelling, I became a consultant for Betfair, working on the Australian market, travelling to racecourses around the nation, being dragged into the stewards' room at Northam races in country Western Australia, slandered in the press by one of the most clueless racing adminstrators ever seen - Robert Nason - for making the perfectly valid statement that Australia has too many races and a fair chunk of them are contested by animals not fit to be on a racecourse (got a deserved dressing down from Ed for that), and many more good times....

It was all about working for Ed and Bert, and their dream. A dream that turned into something huge, and naturally, as it became a big corporate entity the fun slowly disappeared. It was no longer building someone's dream with an ethos of being the punter's best mate but turning into a soulless place desperate to float and with its heart set on screwing punters for every penny they can get.

After a strong revival in the past fortnight, taking the share price from £6 to around £8, Betfair's share price dropped over 50p today after the announcement. Part of it would be due to Ed's impending departure, but overall it was a bad day for the markets where most copped it. Times have changed at Betfair, the last real link to its exciting beginning is about to leave the building.

Enjoy your time on the golf course Ed, or wherever you choose to spend your time now, you've earned it.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Clean up the rorts by merging the steward panels

NSW harness racing has had an image problem for a while and the lid has recently been blown off a massive integrity scandal within the sport. Faced with a sport potentially going down the tube, how do you fix it? The NSW Minister for Racing has proposed merging the stewards' panels for thoroughbred and harness racing to clean up the sport. There are probably many flaws in the proposal but they should be able to be resolved. There is plenty of crossover between the two sports at steward levels, many regularly make the switch.

The NSW harness racing industry needs a massive broom to go through to clean it up, and if Ray Murrihy is involved, it's far more likely to happen than by leaving them to sort it out themselves.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Betfair in the news

Some recent press snippets to cover... The Australian reports that BF Australia chief exec Andrew Twaits has announced his intention to move on next year.

As mentioned in the previous post, the BHA is determined to waste more money on forcing the higher-profiting Betfair users to pay levy. Two obvious issues with that:
- why is the BHA getting into bed with one levy-dodging company, William Hill, to chase another one it believes isn't paying its share?, and
- if bookmakers can move their servers to Gibraltar to avoid paying tax or levy, then why can't an individual punter? Would love to see that one challenged in court.

One of the original Betfair founders, Mark Davies, is suing his legal firm for £4m because they screwed up his share registration, costing him a packet when the BF share price collapsed. The share price has improved a bit in recent weeks (although let's face it, there wasn't much further down it could go!). It has now broken back through the 700p mark.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Paul Roy wouldn't last five minutes at a listed company

When a publicly-listed company's CEO is stuck in the past and continually pisses money up against the wall, major investors waste no time in demanding a leadership change. The racing industry however, has no such structure, no such powerful stakeholders within, and no such chance of getting rid of a complete clod at the helm....

We've been here before:

How many fuckups is Paul Roy entitled to?

There's also a great article from ATR presenter Sean Boyce on one of his earlier blunders, but his site is giving a malware warning, so I'll pass on that for the moment.


Now Roy wants to blow the rest of the racing's rent money on a 100/1 shot with a formline of being flogged at every start.

Racing the loser as Paul Roy links with William Hill to fight Betfair

There is no prospect of success for the British Horseracing Authority as it seeks a judicial review of how the Levy Board handles betting exchanges.

Anyone who walked down High Holborn last Thursday ran the risk of being hit by a flying champagne cork. The source of danger was not the offices of the British Horseracing Authority at 75 but the building that houses their lawyers, Olswang, at No90. The cause for celebration was the news that, in an unlikely alliance with the bookmaker William Hill, the BHA has decided to take the Levy Board to court.

The board decided earlier this year that it would not pursue some users of betting exchanges – ie Betfair – for levy payments, having taken advice from two QCs who reached "materially identical" conclusions that it was not within the board's power to do so. The BHA and Hill's have now decided to subject this decision to a judicial review and, if the learned friends cannot squeeze a seven-figure sum from that, they are not trying hard enough.

The eventual outcome can scarcely be in doubt. The Levy Board's advisers, Michael Fordham QC and Lord Pannick QC, are the top people in the field. The chance that the BHA/bookie team will find a judge prepared to disagree with them is as remote as the offshore servers that Hill's exploit in order to dodge their own levy obligations. Yet still Paul Roy, the BHA chairman, and Ralph Topping, the bellicose chief executive of William Hill, seem intent on pressing on. It is at once fascinating, baffling, stupid and pointless.

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The BHA was supposed to be a new, inclusive governing body that would put a stop to the continuous skirmishing. Instead it has decided to join in. That suggests that either Paul Roy or the authority he leads is not fit for purpose. Then again, it could be both.



Worse than a nagging wife at letting something go, and with completely the opposite chance of winning the argument. Racing is having a brilliant flat season yet the BHA cannot stop itself from making monumental blunders. That the racing industry allows this muppet to continue in his post only highlights how divided and outdated it is.

Sky Sports News match-fixing report

Tune in at 1930 for this special investigation - I'm one of the experts they interview.... At least I will be if my bit made the cut!


Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Corruption can occur from within

Eye-opening story of the depth of corruption in NSW harness racing from Brent Zerafa. There have been rotten eggs in NSW harness racing for years, and for a sport which isn't as well funded as their thoroughbred counterparts, it was often ignored, put down to coincidence or consigned to the 'too hard' basket. Harness racing, or trotting as it is often known, is often called the 'red hots', signifying regular short-priced favourites and that all is not necessarily above board. Add to that the level of dodgy characters involved, particularly using the sport as a legitimate way to launder money, and you soon see why the image of the sport suffers.

When punters whose golden goose is being killed off start firebombing stewards' cars, you know they've found something serious.

Probe into alleged trots misconduct

AN ANONYMOUS phone call to Harness Racing NSW was all it took to set in place a chain of events that threatened to expose a rampant underbelly.

Nestled right in the heart of its integrity system, the anonymous caller claimed, was an expanding cancer. A growth, it was alleged, that was feasting on its very core.

The caller had information that a young steward, nominated by name, was involved in an elaborate scam. He or she didn't say how or why, just that something wasn't right.



Amazing story, about time this cancer on the sport was completely removed rather than given lip service.