In its 100th year The Football Pools, based in Liverpool, reports annual losses of more than £18m after a new digital platform was delayed by almost a year. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool-based gaming business The Football Pools is reporting losses of almost £18.2m for the 12 months to December 31, 2022.
Based in Walton in Liverpool, The Football Pools was founded in the city in 1923 by tycoon Sir John Moores. Then called Littlewoods Pools it was regarded as the best way of getting rich quickly by generations of Brits.
Today it is a business that has taken the traditional Pools game and updated it for the digital age. The company, which employs more than 150 people, is now in its 100th football season.
As well as the classic Football Pools games, where players have to forecast the weekend football results, the company also offers other online subscription games including betting on the Irish Lottery.
Revenue for the 12-month period was flat at £24.7m. Its £18.19m losses were more than treble the losses for the previous year which came in at £5.2m. The year before that the company had lost £4.8m.
At the start of 2023 Derek Lloyd, who had been chief executive of the company since it was acquired by private equity outfit FP Topco for £83m in 2017, departed the business.
He was replaced by James Arnold who joined from Noel Hayden’s LiveScore Group, which runs the Virgin Bet and LiveScore Bet sports betting brands. He spent three years there first as chief operating officer, then as chief commercial officer.
This followed a delay to the implementation of its OneShop digital platform. In its annual accounts just posted on Companies House, the firm said: “During the period, the company impaired £10.39m of goodwill, having determined that the carrying value could not be supported by future cashflows of the business.
“This arose as a result of the company, having to realign its forecasts to reflect the fact that its new digital proposition went live in April 2023, rather than summer 2022 as had originally been assumed when the company refinanced in 2022.”
In July 2022 The Football Pools replaced £18m of debt owed to both institutions with £9m of new debt with Hoplon Investment Partners. Shareholders have also injected a further £6.5m into the company.
According to the accounts, there are two directors – chief executive James Arnold and chief financial officer Carl Lynn. Total remuneration for the directors, including pension payments, was £409,000. The highest paid director received £236,000.
In the accounts they added: “The company has continued its investment strategy in marketing and technology, with the aim of stabilising and growing the Football Pools and Lottery Betting subscriber base of customers, while investing in the newer digital channels to attract a new audience of customers.”
History of the Pools
In February 1923 John Moores (later ‘Sir John’), along with business partners Colin Askham and Bill Hughes, distributed the first 4,000 football pools coupons from an office in Liverpool.
Players had to use their skill and judgement, or just blind luck, to forecast Saturday’s football results. Other companies joined the market in the 1920s including Zetters and Vernons Pools, also based in Liverpool.
By the 1960s around 14m people played every week in the hope of getting rich. In 1994 the National Lottery was launched and the number of people playing the game declined sharply. Few believed the pools would survive. However, a hard core of players stayed loyal.
Littlewoods Group sold its pools operation to Sportech for £160m in 2000. Sportech later acquired Vernons from Ladbrokes and Zetters. In 2008 it brought them under one brand – The Football Pools. In 2017 Sportech sold the Pools to FP Acquisitions in an £83m deal.