The stockmarket that’s not a stockmarket
Football “player trading” platform Football Index is under fire for using “misleading language” that could damage users’ trust in genuine investment firms.
An investigation by the Daily Telegraph (£) examined the terminology used on Football Index and concluded that it is “language more associated with regulated investing than bet-making.”
Football Index’s slogan is “The football stockmarket,” which gives the impression that betting on football players is actually an investment. Gamblers place bets on the future success of top soccer players but the entire platform is designed to look and feel more like a genuine stockmarket than a gambling site.
According to the Telegraph,
the site allows gamblers to place bets, which it describes as investing in shares of footballers, with the chance of winning payouts or ‘dividends’.
The language doesn’t stop there. Gamblers are called traders and payouts are called dividends. The bets, which have fixed odds, are dubbed “futures” and shares. Gamblers can also trade their “shares” on the platform’s own market at a minimum agreed price to other “investors,” who can add that footballer to their “portfolio.”
The Football Index is even structured like a genuine stockmarket in that it began with a base value of 1,000 points. The Footie, as it is dubbed, even mimics the FTSE, which is pronounced “footsie.”
The platform currently has 100,000 gamblers in the UK and has had a number of “trading” days when bets totaling over £1m ($1.27m) were placed. In the 2018-2019 soccer season, trading surpassed £200m ($254m) two months before the season closed in May. It paid out more than £2m ($2.54m) in “dividends.”
“Give it a try”
A YouTube video shows gamblers on the Footie praising the platform and talking about how it is better than real stockmarkets. One says “it’s good fun” but adds “You can make returns of 20% or 30% upwards, which is not something you’d make on a standard stock exchange.”
Another man says: “I’ve told a few friends to join Football Index. The issue is ‘have I missed the boat?’ But you haven’t missed the boat, it’s just the beginning.” A third says: “It’s much better than leaving your money in a bank account. You might lose a few quid on one player but you’ll definitely win on other players.”
A fourth bettor says: “It’s a good opportunity – give it a try!”
The video, on Football Index’s official YouTube channel, makes no mention of responsible gambling or sources of help for bettors who feel they might be developing a gambling problem.
Football Index’s website does, however, carry information and resources on problem gambling including links to gambling harm support sites such as Gamble Aware and GAMSTOP, the self-exclusion platform. It is licensed by the UK regulator.
Condemned by experts
Telegraph investigation quoted a financial expert, who said platforms such as Football Index can give the wrong impression about long-term investment.
James Daley of Fairer Finance said: “There is almost nobody that makes a profit from gambling. These sites need to be much clearer that they are [about] gambling and not investments, and they should not be trying to use the language of financial services to lend themselves credibility – it’s misleading.”
A spokesperson from the Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS), which mediates for gambling operators, told the Telegraph that “terminology on the site is confusing.”
He said: “In the terms and conditions on the site, it is described as a ‘regulated fixed-odds gambling product’ but the game rules use language that you might typically associate with spread betting.”
As a further warning, financial advisors Chase de Vere told the Telegraph: “It’s important to note that, unlike most investments, the money that people stake isn’t protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if everything goes horribly wrong.”
A handful of Football Index’s customers are known to have portfolios worth up to £100,000 ($127,000).
A move into sponsorship
Like many gambling operators, Football Index has also moved into the contentious sphere of football team sponsorship. In July 2018, it signed a “front of shirt” deal with League One club Bristol Rovers. In January of this year, Football Index became the kit sponsor for League Two team Notts County for that month.
Its most recent deal was struck in June, when it became shirt sponsor for Nottingham Forest, in what the Championship League club described as “the biggest shirt sponsorship deal in the club’s history.” The deal is for the 2019-2020 season.
There are growing calls for a ban on gambling companies sponsoring team kits or advertising on pitchside hoardings, both of which are said to normalize gambling in the eyes of children.
The platform also signed up renowned football commentator John Motson to be the face and voice of its advertising campaign during the most recent football season. Motson worked for the BBC as a match commentator from 1971 until his retirement in 2008.
Sky Sports pundit Guillem Balague became a brand ambassador for Football Index in September 2018. He can be seen on the platform’s TV channel and is also the face of events organized for Football Index’s “traders.”
About Football Index
Football Index was founded in 2015 by Adam Cole and it is viewed as a disruptor to the traditional gambling sector. It is owned by a Jersey-registered company called BetIndex Ltd. The company is also licensed to operate in Jersey.
It has a deal with brokerage company Gold-i that enables it to buy and sell futures contracts on footballers. The software that runs the platform comes from Fame Ventures, which is owned by Cole. It currently offers new bettors the opportunity to play for seven days “risk-free” if they “invest” £500 ($635).