Football Index Player Accounts Devastated as Betting Exchange Slashes Dividend Payouts

  • Betting exchange announced a significant reduction in maximum dividends per share on Friday
  • As a result, share prices plummeted across the board, destroying customer account values
  • Football Index kept issuing new shares in the weeks leading up to the dividend announcement
  • The company said it had “sustained substantial losses,” necessitating the move
Soccer match between Nottingham Forest, which wears jerseys sponsored by Football Index, and Fulham FC
Shares of soccer players on the Football Index betting exchange plunged over the weekend after the company announced it was slashing divided payouts. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update, March 12, 2021: The UK Gambling Commission has suspended the operating license of BetIndex Limited, which trades as Football Index, after finding that the platform “may not be suitable to carry on with licensed activities.” Immediately following the announcement, the Betting and Gaming Council proceeded to suspend the company’s membership while investigations are ongoing.

The news comes after Football Index announced on its website on March 11 that it would suspend its platform and go into administration as it seeks to resume business “in a restructured form.”

Share prices plunge

Bettors with holdings on Football Index are furious as the European soccer betting exchange changed its terms, resulting in share prices plummeting and leaving customers holding the bag. On Friday, Football Index announced a new dividend structure, slashing the maximum dividend payment per share from 14p ($0.19) to just 3p ($0.04). The pricing change will take effect 28 days from the day of the announcement.

share prices on the market have plummeted by as much as 90% or more

As a result of the severe dividend reduction, share prices on the market have plummeted by as much as 90% or more. For example, shares of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho were going for £7.52 ($10.39) on Friday, but on Sunday morning, that figure had tumbled to 72p ($0.99).

Football Index is a betting site in which customers can buy and sell shares of soccer players like they would companies on a stock exchange. As prices change, customers can potentially make profits by selling higher than when they bought. Football Index also pays dividends per share based on how players perform and even on how much they get talked about in the media. Naturally, with the potential to make money on dividends demolished, there is less demand for shares, leading to a crash in prices.

One customer compared the sudden change in dividend terms to a traditional sportsbook changing the odds on an already-booked futures bet halfway through a season because it realized it couldn’t afford to pay out on a win.

Company was still issuing new shares

To make matters worse, Football Index created (or “minted”) and issued new shares in popular players before the dividend change announcement. According to The Guardian, the company issued almost 300,000 new shares in February, including 15,000 for just the eight most popular players.

For the aforementioned Sancho, the exchange issued 2,400 new shares in February, equating to an estimated £16,800 ($23,209) in revenue for the company. From those eight top players – Sancho, Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford – The Guardian estimates Football Index made about £75,000 ($103,613).

Football Index CEO Mike Bohan announced on February 18 that he would host a Q&A the following week to talk about ways to improve the site, but he postponed the session and replaced it with the dividend update announcement on March 5.

feel “betrayed” by the company

In between, Football Index continued to issue new shares, generating revenue. Customers, many of whom have lost five-to-six-figures in account value, feel “betrayed” by the company, believing that the exchange made money on new shares while knowing it was about to kill share prices across the board.

Though Football Index keeps customer cash balances in segregated accounts and therefore said balances are generally considered safe (“generally” because if the company goes under, there are no repayment guarantees), shares have value only on paper. This value is not realized until the shares are sold.

It was a desperation move

In a public statement, Football Index said it made the dividend decision because the company “has sustained substantial losses” and cannot afford to be paying out so much money per share. The company’s board had come up with a plan to mitigate losses while keeping dividends where they were for a while longer and that the new shares issuance was part of that plan.

“However,” the company said, “it became clear that important KPIs of the plan were not being sustained to a level that would support the ongoing payment of dividends at those levels, despite substantial progress being made against those objectives.”

While the higher-ups were devising a new plan, they decided to “continue business as usual” until they settled upon the new course of direction. Once they realized that that cutting dividends was what they needed to do, they stopped issuance orders and made the announcement “as soon as reasonably practicable.”

Some customers have threatened members of the Football Index staff, resulting in the company disabling comments on its Twitter feed.