Defunct soccer gambling site Football Index announced Tuesday that the UK High Court has handed down an order that will allow many of the site’s customers to find financial relief. Football Index is required to reimburse its customers £3.2m ($4.5m).
The judge ruled that administration (essentially bankruptcy) began on March 26, 2021, so customers who do receive payments from the prescribed lot will have access to funds in their accounts up until this date.
Football Index was a very popular soccer betting site, but rather than placing traditional wagers, customers bought and sold shares in individual athletes. In essence, it was a soccer player stock exchange. You could buy shares in players directly from Football Index, or from other users on the marketplace. Buy at one price and sell at a higher price and you have made a profit.
Where there was really money to be made for customers, though, was in the dividends. Football Index paid as much as 14p per day per player share depending on how the soccer player performed on the field and even how much they were trending in the media.
Dividends were important for a couple reasons. First, they provided users with income streams, regardless of the fluctuations of a player’s share price. And second, they effectively drove the share prices. If a soccer player’s shares earned consistent, strong dividends for their owners, there would be more demand for the shares and thus their price would go up in the marketplace. Thus, dividends were a double-whammy.
The dividends also cost Football Index a lot of money. Therefore, on March 5, the site announced that it was slashing the maximum divided per share from 14p to 3p in four weeks. And with that, share prices plunged because of their greatly reduced value. People’s cash balances were fine, but the value of their held shares was destroyed. Some users lost five-to-six figures in portfolio value.
Football Index has said that 159,075 of its users had cash balances; these are the people who will be reimbursed. People will not get back lost value of their shares. It’s like the stock market. The cash balance in your brokerage account is safe regardless of what the market does, but if your stocks tank, you are out of luck.
In the meantime, Members of Parliament (MPs) called for an independent investigation into the situation that will cost Football Index customers an estimated £90m ($125.3m). And sure enough, the UK government announced earlier this week that Malcolm Sheehan QC will lead the investigation. Under the microscope will be the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) which is under heat from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm for failing to “enact adequate oversight.”
Additionally, The Guardian reported that the UKGC was warned about Football Index’s prospects in January 2020. The report’s author said told the UKGC that Football Index was a pyramid scheme that would collapse if the site didn’t keep attracting customers.