The Football Index Crisis Won’t Go Away

The Football Index crisis continues to rumble on. The Gambling Commission have now told customers of the collapsed site that they are unable to pay back any money that was lost by them.
When BetIndex (who ran Football Index) went into administration earlier this year, it was the administrators who had the task of dealing with upset customers. There was a total of £4.5m in the player protection fund that had been set up by BetIndex.

At the time the Football Index site collapsed, it’s believed that there were £3.5m held in players accounts. That’s not the whole story though, otherwise we’d be reporting a far happier story. The value of active bets when the site stopped trading was a considerably larger amount. Just how those amounts will be reimbursed isn’t known.

Andrew Rhodes is the interim chief executive of the Gambling Commission. He says that if people are still owed money, then they need to be contacting the administrators Begbies Traynor, not the Gambling Commission.

“In some industries there are mandatory or voluntary schemes or compensation schemes which give some protection to funds in the event of a company collapsing. The gambling industry is not regulated like that – its regulated as a leisure activity,” said the interim chief executive.

Going into responsible gambling mode, Rhodes reminded people not to bet more than they can afford to lose. “Not because the company might collapse but because gambling is inherently risky.” While those who have lost, what he calls “life changing amounts of money,” cannot get any funds from the Gambling Commission, Rhodes knows that the Gambling Commission do not come out of this situation smelling of roses.

He admitted that they had been slow to act during the Football Index collapse. That was also the findings of the independent investigation carried out by the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS).

The Gambling Commission had licensed Football Index as a fixed-odds betting service. This saw players receiving dividends but not buying or selling bets. However, they then discovered that Football Index had a stock market model. Products of that nature need an exchange betting license but that was never granted.

Rhodes admitted that the Gambling Commission “took too long” in reaching their final decision. They had focused on “protecting consumer and trying to bring Football Index into compliance.” However, he says “they should’ve drawn a line under those efforts at an earlier point.”

He did though state that their decision not to suspend BetIndex’s licence earlier was a correct one to make. “Once it became clear that Football Index was not operating according to its original licence, the Gambling Commission had some very difficult choices.

The product was very large, and the suspension of the licence would have had huge repercussions for the company. The reality is whenever we suspended the license the company would have most likely collapsed and most of the customers would have lost the money they had in open bets.”