I hope you are OK. Apologies for the lengthy gap in releasing any new content or keeping the site updated. Being severely short of time recently, I've only been able to use Twitter (@Westy_FTI) to vent my frustrations at the situations and target those that I believe have defrauded us or let us down. My time and energy outside of the day job, and my family, has been spent relentlessly investigating the Football Index catastrophe and helping all users towards any route possible to justice and proper redress. I have also had to deal with the financial hits personally whilst moving house and with a baby…not great timing at all. I feel I have aged about 10 years over the last year!
I have tried to remove any links to Football Index and Footstock from this site that I could find immediately. Unfortunately, that also meant deleting some of our 'Resources' pages where many useful links to other content providers were shown- so apologies to them and deepest sympathies that your efforts have been ruined. I will go through the site with a fine tooth comb in the near future.
This article unavoidably touches on the Football Index issue (there will be more on that in future when I can), but the main focus of this article is a closer look at the Footstock collapse and further questioning of the role the UK Gambling Commission take for their tax payer funding.
If you have been affected by any of the platforms collapsing, feel free to get in touch- Twitter DM is best. Many of you have, and although I cannot offer much more than a pep talk about taking action whilst also preparing acceptance for the worst case scenario, the conversations seem to be well received- it helps to get things off your chest! It has been absolutely harrowing to hear some of the individual circumstances and thanks to those that allowed me to share these as case studies to Leigh Day Law.
Make sure you have sought professional help if you are really struggling:
Over the last few years, the UK has seen an influx of football money platforms (Football Index, Footstock, Sorare, Sportstack, FiveYards, SportsBroker, PlayersExchange, FanTeam etc.) These platforms are all linked by the idea of having money involved and using your football knowledge but being different to traditional betting or the free to play fantasy football competitions. The others and I involved at Football Trading Insights championed these sites versus bookmakers. Personally, I came from a match day betting background and, despite my age and life responsibilities, I'm still an avid player of FPL, FIFA and Football Manager. These platforms looked ideal for me as I was keen to move away from the one-off bets but still use my football knowledge and try to make my spare cash work for me whilst savings rates are so low. Either by their choice (their models) or seemingly the choice of the Gambling Commission, the platforms fall in to two rough groups: GC licensed ‘betting’ platforms or no GC license ‘gaming’ platforms.
To the best of my knowledge...
GC licensed as gambling sites:
Football Index - Buy shares/stakes in players and earn cash from performances and media payouts. Now gone. Just remaining cash balances paid out on a court set date.
Footstock - Buy cards and enter free or buy-in fantasy football competitions for cash prizes. Now gone. No payout to users.
Sportstack - Bet on player match day performances for cash payouts. Now gone. Not sure what users got back- don't think there were active bets at time of closure, so cash withdrawn.
FanTeam - Buy-in fantasy football for prizes. Still going.
FiveYards - Buy shares/stakes in a player to try and win performance linked payouts. Now gone. They settled open stakes at market value, took no commission and users could withdraw.
No GC license ‘gaming’ platforms:
Sorare -Buy NFT (collectible) cards of a player. Use them in free entry fantasy football competitions to try and win cash (ETH) prizes. Still going.
PlayersExchange - Buy shares in players and earn payouts based on performances. Now gone. Cash balances returned and IPO values returned on holdings (minus an admin fee).
SportsBroker - Buy shares in a team before match, shares go up or down based on perfomances. Still going.
Interestingly, I know SportsBroker applied for a license and were told they did not meet the criteria. It’s worth knowing that on SportsBroker you buy shares in a team and try to beat the site’s algorithm point system that recalculates share prices after each performance (they go up and down based on this). It is interesting to see how the GC deemed SportsBroker out of their remit yet did go and license the likes of Football Index and Footstock.
SportsStack Careers popped up early this year and tried to directly challenge Football Index, but it was swiftly closed apparently due to issues with the Gambling Commission and the FCA. SportStack Careers was very similar to Football Index just without the share expiry. Funnily enough, although share expiry was in every one of the hundreds of Ts and Cs Football Index made, they never actually followed the rule! It is a big part of the whole mess they ended up with. It begs to ask the question why didn’t the GC regulate this rule to the bets?! We will be told it is not within their remit to do so. What did they license? Football Index stated the bets were 'Fixed odds bets' and swiftly removed this during the fall out of the crash... If they are looking at this sort of thing at the point of licensing, surely, they need to check it is enforced? Otherwise SportStack missed a trick- just tell the GC what they want to hear for a license, then go and do whatever you want once licensed- its not the GC's remit to keep an eye on things it seems. I imagine, as we had been told by Adam Cole that the expiry rule was in there just to please the GC, the GC didn’t want to license SportStack Careers due to this non expiry and the FCA didn’t like the look of it due to the ‘shares’ not actually being shares of the real player.
It is worth pointing out that SportStack careers didn't do well. It didn't take long for users (mostly experienced Football Index users) to realise value was not there. Shares were too pricey for the possible minimal rewards. It was as close to a sustainable Football Index that we have seen, however it meant it was very boring and difficult to make quick easy money (unlike FI). I raise this point as many believed a CVA rescue of Football Index was an option. From what we now know, I don't think you can get the same product with the same buzz whilst being run profitably. Perhaps once a massive user base was built globally they could have made money through advertising etc, but I think we are dreaming there- how long can you run at such a big loss? It does make me wonder why Begbies Traynor (FI administrators) took so long to try and find a CVA solution? It is clear to see the model just didn't work without endless new money coming in akin to a Ponzi/Pyramid Scheme.
These new platforms of football money opportunities were doing very well until the collapse of SportStack and then Football Index. Football Index was seen as the most secure site by many. It had thousands of users, big marketing, a big market cap value, lots of sports journalists writing about it, John Motson advertising it, regular TalkSport features, recognisable journalists writing about it, Nasdaq getting involved etc… there is plenty of reading out there now about FI and it’s collapse. SportStack had already gone down and then we had a snowball effect on other sites. We saw the fall of PlayersExchange, FiveYards and Footstock.
Many Footstock users were also Football Index users leaving thousands of UK citizens financially burnt twice by no fault of their own- not bad bets. The bets didn’t get a chance to play out! Yes customers of FI knew they had what is called 'Medium protection' and in the case of closure wouldn't get all their money back, but the point many looking at this externally are missing is that it looks like customers were mislead (defrauded) for a long time by the directors of FI - so it is not about bets being lost and it is bigger than just a closure of a betting site! Whether Footstock users have suffered in the same way needs looking into. The nature of these platforms attracted people that wanted a ‘safer’ way to have money involved in football instead of outright bookmaker traditional betting. The stock market elements of both invited people from a range of professions that had money and would look to consider these cards/shares more like investments rather than purely bets. Even those that saw them as bets, saw them as a different type of bet- a bet that didn’t rely on just one outcome, a bet that you could keep playing, bets that were sold with either lengthy expiration dates or no expiration date.
On Footstock, users bought cards of footballers and you could then pay (bet a stake) to enter fantasy football teams comprised by your cards into prize competitions. Whether your team won money or not in a specific game week, you could choose to trade or hold your stock cards ready for the next game week. The cards had no expiry and Footstock ran lots of free competitions; one being a 'guaranteed' 100k prize season long tournament where you could enter multiple teams. The benefit of this type of free competition for Footstock is that it encouraged people to buy a lot of cards.
It all seemed to be going well. A small platform sorting out mistakes in their early growth and gradually getting better. Footstock were licensed, regulated, had a celebrity figure head for marketing -Chris Kamara- and were open about problems and their plans for improvement.
The Footstock closure timeline:
Football Index has been put under the microscope by myself and many others- it is still ongoing. But in comparison, Footstock has not had the same uproar or digging into yet. This could be down to many reasons, but one I can personally share is that the Football Index collapse has really taken the stuffing out of so many of us. I hate to think about the amount of hours I have spent collecting evidence for the FI case and the amount of time so many others have spent on it. Those involved with the FI Action Group really have put a lot in to seeking justice for users. It’s not just the time, but the energy and mental health aspects. It is a depressing bit of work to do. It could possibly be healthier to accept what has happened and move on with closure and I know some are taking this approach. Personally, I can’t let it go whilst I feel so many of us have been let down. I will continue to do whatever I can to get some form of justice. Each one of us needs to decide to channel the anger into productivity or to move on.
Many of you have asked to see the Football Index evidence timeline I put together. I can’t share the log whilst it is being actively used, but as soon as I am given then all clear I will do so. It makes for incredible reading (not my writing or editing- just the clear facts put in time order of what happened!). Here is a similar look at the timeline around Footstock’s closure which I am happy to share:
Note- there were a lot of tweets/emails from Footstock over the time period. I haven't listed them all here; this is just a selection.
10th March 21 update
Headlines from this update:
Chance to invest in Footstock through Seedrs soon- NOTE- ‘With such a strong foundation in place’
Funding to be used to take FS to the ‘next level’ no mention of it being needed just to pay the current ‘guaranteed’ prizes etc.
More competitions etc coming.
Saturation problem being acted on- cards being removed from market.
Talk of Euro21- ‘there will be extra demand’.
Talk of next season
Mentioned a NEW LICENSE
So from this update, it was clear that Footstock had lots of plans. Many of these plans would have excited holders and potential buyers. But it seems those plans heavily relied on funding coming/being secured? For a new license to be granted late February and then close early March, what regulating/checks etc were completed to achieve a new license?
10th March 21 Footstock celebrate getting a customer back. He had sold up but the 10th March update got him back in…
10th March 21 another customer reaction example: Note reference to happenings at Football Index. Note Footstock retweeted this.
Just before Footstock closed, there was a sense of panic as they communicated a name change was needed. The CEO was quite open about this. It was right after the collapse of FI and the attention to the misleading nature of terms like ‘shares, stocks, dividends’ etc. There must have been a tip off or a sense that FI had bent the rules and Footstock wanted to quickly get rid of the ‘stock’ part to their name. Perhaps it was the funder of said agreement worrying about it? Footstock closed due to funding being withdrawn after investors heard what had happened at Football Index (that's what we were told).
Even though Footstock advertised and ran competitions like the £100k free entry tournament licensed by GC as 'guaranteed', they had actually been relying on further investment all along.
Note the date on this £100k (one of the guaranteed prize compettions) update 23rd March
So how can a company guarantee prizes that never materialize? Look at just two examples of these sort of prizes encouraging customer spending:
Cal and Ulster are right. Many users would have joined or ‘invested in cards’ etc due to this big prize free entry tournament- how can it be ‘guaranteed’ if they didn’t have the prize money ringfenced?
26th March 21 Email to customers
26th March 21 - a more detailed letter was sent out, only to be deleted. This mentioned Football Index.
In the letter of closure it states, ‘Over the last few days, we tried incredibly hard to find a solution that allows us to stay operational.’ This is where I start to get concerned.
See below some of their communications and how it affected some users in the ‘few days’ before the letter and closure…
Those ‘few days’:
23rd March 21 FS retweeted ‘platform is booming’
23rd March 21 Business as usual…
23rd March 21 ‘£20,000 in combined guarantees’
23rd March 21 talking about events coming up in the future…
23rd March 21 Footstock retweeted this…
24th March 21 ‘Deadline’, ‘2.5k in the pot already’
24th March 21 Business as usual…
24th March 21 – users may have been encouraged to A) enter B) buy cards to enter
24th March 21 Footstock actively retweeting an ad.
25th March 21 Still business as usual…
25th March 21 ‘have the player cards for the rest of their career to use again and again’ This one particularly glares out at me... the day before!
25th March 21
25th March 21 Customers still putting in money (this tweet was on 26th March after hearing closure)
26th March 21 New pinned tweet
26th March 21 Sign up page still on
Overall, like many, I’m leaning towards believing Footstock had genuine intentions, however this behaviour whilst knowing about the problem is worrying! They could have gone quieter on social media, certainly not retweeted bits. Could they not have immediately refunded money taken during those few days or even faked an IT glitch to stop people buying during this time? I know they may not have wanted to spread panic but at least do something! Don’t take money you know is most likely to be wasted!
If we go with what we have been told, they had funding agreements in place to continue their growth but the funding was withdrawn due to events elsewhere. A big issue for me in this case is how easy it is for a company to get a gambling license in the UK, take money, then run into issues and the money disappears from the punters. What is to stop any of us creating a platform, offer interesting and appealing potential returns taking lots of money, moving that money around for ‘advice fees’ from Mr Burns at Fame Ventures… then closing with nothing left to pay the victims? Surely proof of being able to pay-out is a must in future? This all again raises questions over the point of the Gambling Commission and what they do do. We need something more robust to stop this sort of thing happening.
Others, rightly so, are even more suspicious about what might have really happened. Is it another case of a company getting lost in their ideas and product and then turning to fraudulent behaviours to take what they can whilst knowing they are going under? Why did all the above social media continue whilst they knew they were in trouble? Was the Football Index collapse a timely scapegoat? How much money went in during those ‘few days’?
What’s happening now?
Well to put it short, its another absolute sh*tshow of an administration process. So many UK users did not receive the emails form Sian Grabowski. The two emails explained how to register a claim as a creditor and had a personalised pin. One of the emails had an email contact to use - I.Glaeubiger@westhelleundpartner.eu
For anyone who didn’t receive them, check Spam folders and contact them about claiming- explain the issues lots of us have had in meeting the deadline as we never received the information.
I am not holding much hope of getting any funds returned through this process though. The registration forms look very business like, so I imagine there are big fish owed substantial amounts before punters get a look in. The whole process is even more daunting with the administrator being in Germany- we are getting next to nothing communicated and we would need a lot of external support to put any pressure on their governing bodies etc.
Unlike the Football Index disaster, Footstock users have not formed an action group- probably due to many believing it is just Footstock’s bad luck- there seems to be less anger and cries of fraud compared to Football Index.
I will be submitting what I can to Leigh Day law as part of the Football Index work. I believe the Footstock case adds weight to the claims of the Gambling Commission being unfit for purpose. If we had better regulation and stronger licensing requirements, then thousands of us would have been more protected. I for one, joined and put more money in the platforms licensed by the GC than those that were/are not.
It is a real shame that these platforms have been let loose with out being fully understood by the Gambling Commission or having a proper regulator in place. There was a lot of potential for them to be the new wave of having money in football results without risking whole stakes- stronger checks may have meant stronger products. This is undoubtedly a blow to the whole UK gambling industry. Football Index alone had around £124 million stakes in it at the point of closure. That's a lot of customers and money further put off gambling for good I’d guess. How can we trust any further platform or bookmaker?
The GC license tag on sites seems absolutely worthless. If I make a bet, I want a fair result, I want someone ensuring a fair result will be given. Through being a part of FIAction I have seen a lot of the inspirational work Clean Up Gambling Campaign are doing led by Matt Zarb-Cousin. I have also seen football celebrities such as Peter Shilton doing their part to guide the UK gambling scene to a safer and more robust industry.