The Big Premier League Switch Off

As an avid Gillingham fan, I’m often heard moaning and groaning at my team’s inability to defend, poor attendances due to our League Two status, and a lack of money. Yet, I marvel at the club’s ability to exist when the team I supported as a boy is being taken to the cleaners by two comic American hillbillies and whose trials and tribulations in courts across the globe would make even Judge Judy scratch her head. The Premier League’s greed is to blame for Liverpool’s current state of demise and it’s senior management must surely be forced to resign after one of the country’s greatest sporting institutions has been brought to its knees by foreign owners who unsuccessfully and inevitably failed to juggle the immediate debt they snowploughed in to Anfield.

When the Premier League launched in the early nineties, we were promised a new form of professionalism in sport. With it came the stars… Yeboah, Cantona, Klinsmann, Bergkamp, Henry, Ronaldo and the great TV coverage. What it has now become is the most poorly run professional body in the history of sport. The Premier League makes the Delhi Commonwealth Games crew look as in order as a North Korean political rally. The TV money of the 90s is still there, and it grows year on year. But it’s not sufficient to satisfy the whorish desires of the Premier League. No. Without control, Scudamore and his croons have pimped our sport out to the highest bidders (or in Liverpool and Manchester United’s cases, Yanks with not a lot of money but a huge yet undoubtedly unwarranted credit rating). Scudamore and his mob at Premier League HQ have bathed in the ‘glory’ of English football’s top tier for 18 long years, dined at the tables of Oligarchs, Sheikhs, American capitalists and hedge-fund managers. The whole thing wreaks of the highest form of stomach-churning greed and it has cynically made our beloved game, a sport we grew up dreaming of being a part of, a disgusting, completely off-putting money-spinning exercise. And it has spun well out of control.

What do we see now? Liverpool and Manchester United… The country’s two greatest footballing clubs left flat broke, unable to compete on and off the pitch with relatively historic minnows Manchester City and Chelsea. And we see clubs like Wigan, Everton and Stoke exist in comfort in the Premier League. Happy to be a part of it, but rightfully not willing to take the risk of overseas investment to reach the so-called promised land. I feel for clubs like Portsmouth and Leeds. They take the plunge to reach the next level, the latter doing it with no overseas investment. Some fans may argue that an FA Cup win or a Champions League Semi-Final place was worth years in the wilderness, but you’d be hard-pushed to find more than a handful.

And it has now come to pass that Liverpool, England’s most successful ever club, is on the verge of going into administration, dropping to the bottom of the once-vaunted Premier League and sitting on -3 points. The unbelievable irony is that it is the Premier League dishing out the 9 point deduction.

I don’t know about you, but this whole saga – and the story yet to unfold its ugly ending at Old Trafford – has utterly turned me off Premier League football. It’s League Two all the way for me! Up the Gills!

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The Tens – Decade of the Sportsbook?

If the last few years of the Noughties saw sportsbook’s market leaders shifting their focus towards the cutting edge technologies of in-play betting and live streaming, the first few years of this decade should see affiliates reap the rewards. Since online sports betting first evolved, betting affiliates have never received the same levels of respect and support as their poker and casino counterparts. However, this should all be about to change.

As businesses look to diversify, adding a sportsbook to their product suite is an ever appealing option. Affiliates find themselves in precisely the same position. Opportunities in the casino space are becoming far more competitive and we’ve all heard more than enough poker affiliates state claim that “there’s no money in poker anymore.” Whether you agree with the latter, what is certain is that extending sideways by adding a sportsbook, is certainly more appealing to businesses on both sides of the fence.

Whilst the likes of the operator Mangas and the affiliate Pokerlistings are striving down the acquisition route, it simply isn’t an option for most operators and affiliates at the moment. This has led to an increased focus and success of the white label solution, such as those offered by the B2B arms of 888, Bwin, Paddy Power and Partygaming, as well as the rapid emergence of specialist sports betting solutions available with the likes of OddsMatrix.

Affiliates are doing precisely the same thing. They are seeing the need to not only diversify, but to lower costs in the short to medium term as they fight for space in ever competitive markets. It is no secret that the acquisition cost of a sports bettor is significantly lower than that of acquiring a casino or, even still, a poker player. Traditionally, sports betting-centric operators have been reluctant to share lifetime rewards of their cross promotion strategies, but with the growing international success of fair, cross product paying, sports betting-focused affiliate programs, such as bet365, Victor Chandler, Stan James and Ladbrokes, this landscape is changing. This means the affiliate is being rewarded, over the lifetime of a player with a brand, across the entire product suite. In essence, lower acquisition costs for increased returns and this means the rise of sports betting as a viable affiliate marketing channel.

This has taken a while to come to fruition. Sports betting affiliates have long been viewed with suspicion by many bookmakers and betting groups, particularly those whose margins are tightened by high overheads and unreliable trading patterns. This is largely due to the large amount of quality information affiliates can feed to players via odds comparison feeds, quality content or tipster forums, pushing such margins to the brink. Poker rooms and casinos have nearly always welcomed the education of players and affiliates in those arenas have reaped the rewards.

Sports betting is not ready for a PokerStrategy.com-type model just yet, but there are a number of projects on the horizon that seek to bridge the ‘education v margin’ conundrum. Tipster forums have long been havens for groups of serious ‘bookie breakers’ and survived on a fragile equilibrium between bookmaker and affiliate. Now, some highly innovative groups of affiliates are looking to take on social media and take a tipster-like conversational model from a finely-tuned group of professional bettors to the masses, and this should massively appeal to the bookmaker concerned about his margins.

Bingo has grown hugely on the back of its social connotations in a past life, but the next few years should see sports betting become the first mainstream online gaming channel to conquer the social network and monetize it effectively. As an event driven hobby, betting is far more contextual and naturally reaches out to more people than any other form of gaming, with the result of one person’s bet carrying significant importance, albeit more in an emotional sense than anything else, to many others in his or her network of friends. People brag about winning far more and bemoan a loss on a far greater scale than a poker player on the end of a bad beat and nowadays, their first habitual venue for a brag or a whinge will be via a social network, where they will not always be met with an appropriate congratulation or commiseration.

It’s the responsibility of the affiliate of the 2010s to monetize sports betting’s emotional drivers and social networks are where affiliates such as Flutr.co.uk seek to tap into people’s unerring passion for sport and entertainment. With the FIFA World Cup 2010, the largest ever betting event approaching in June this year, now is the time for sports betting affiliates to take the lead in cracking social media.

a glover, a fisher are no fun for a tiger

Some really great stories coming out of the US Open at Bethpage, New York. None any greater than the fact that it can actually rain more at a US major than at The Open Championship in the UK. As refreshing though, in no particular order:

Lucas Glover (who!?) – a “whatever you like”/1 shot to win as the greenkeepers were working over time on Thursday morning. If I’ve not backed somebody at 5/1 in the chasing pack, I love a story like this. Good work son.

Phil Mickelson – Big Phil doing his wife very proud. Thought he was a bit unlucky not to go on and win. That’s a record equalling fifth runners-up placing at the US Open and the second time he’s managed it on the Bethpage Black course. Not quite sure how tipster extraordinaire Dave Tindall left him out of his picks…

Tiger Woods – loads of criticism for the way he finished, but to be honest his recovery is quite frankly ominous for the rest of the PGA and European Tour players at any event he fancies showing up at.

Ross Fisher – being English, I’m hoping his top ten finish in a US major doesn’t mean he’ll wind up on the Ian Poulter/Paul Casey/Justin Rose bandwagon of never having a hope of winning one. Never easy with all those beer-swigging New Yorkers whooping whenever one of their charges nails a two footer for bogey.

Looking ahead to the real Open Championship, Glover is a best-priced 100/1 to repeat his heroics. Not a chance in hell. However, Ross Fisher at 33/1 is a cracking each way bet, particularly as Tiger and Co will have to cope with all those whisky-chugging Jocks whooping whenever Monty tucks in to his next KitKat at Turnberry.