Distraught Norwich City fan 'lost £98k in football betting site collapse’
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A Norwich City fan has revealed how he was left “on the verge of suicide” after losing more than £98,000 when gambling website Football Index collapsed.
The failed online betting platform offered a self-styled “football stock market”, where users could buy and trade 'shares' in leading players which returned dividends according to their performances on the pitch.
But its collapse into administration in March has left people facing huge losses with at least £90m of users’ stakes trapped in the platform.
Having joined in 2018 after seeing it advertised on sports channels, Jamie, who did not want to disclose his real name, initially invested £3,000.
But in the months leading up to Football Index going offline he was putting thousands of pounds into the platform every month.
It's now possible he will lose all his £98,032 total deposit in the firm.
“It has completely torn my life apart,” he said. “It is all the money I’ve ever saved, almost everything I’ve ever had and has put quite simply left me on the verge of committing suicide.
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“My family has been really supportive but it’s really difficult to explain to anyone who doesn’t really understand what has happened here.
“It’s not a case of losing all this money from being a bad gambler or spending money I haven’t got. This was a different kind of betting over a longer term.”
The 27-year-old, who works in sales at an engineering company, said he had gradually got more involved after being told the platform was licenced by the Gambling Commission.
An independent review of the regulation of Football Index, published in September, heavily criticised the actions and attitude of both the Gambling Commission and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
It found that the Gambling Commission had ignored warnings that its business model was flawed and that customers’ money could be at risk.
Jamie’s case has now been taken up by Norwich South MP Clive Lewis who has written to ministers urging them to “explore alternative means of redress for my constituents and the tens of thousands of people across the country who have been failed by the Gambling Commission and the FCA”.
“People were misled, the necessary safeguards weren’t there, and the government has to do more to prevent this kind of failure from ever happening again,” he added.
Liquidation of Football Index parent company BetIndex means people will get back little of the money they had on the platform. Jamie believes it may be 3p in the pound meaning he might be able to retrieve £3,000 of his £98,000.
“It has been incredibly difficult to just take it all in,” he said. “It collapsed nine months ago but I think about it every day. It is difficult to move on from it.
“It’s beyond belief how it has been allowed to happen. I don’t really understand how it was allowed to get to this stage. I couldn't believe it when I read the independent report. Regulators had concerns as far back as 2018 and 2019 so they should have stepped in a long time ago.”
Responding to the review, Andrew Rhodes, the Gambling Commission’s chief executive, said the regulator had “already acted on a number of recommendations in the report”, adding that its “actions were always focused on trying to protect consumers while we sought to bring the operator into compliance with regulations.”
Gambling or investing? What was Football Index
Football Index risks becoming the biggest failure in UK gambling history but the Jersey-based company had styled itself as a "stock market of football".
Launched in 2015, it quickly became a fixture of the sports betting sector and was shirt sponsor of Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest, until they removed branding after its collapse in March.
Gamblers bought and sold "shares" in professional footballers, earning dividend payments depending on the players' performance.
If a player performed well or transferred to a bigger club, the transfer value went up and so did the 'share price'.
Some critics argue it was akin to a Ponzi scheme, which pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors.
Its customers stand to lose up to £100m. Jamie is among those who have spoken to law firms investigating whether there are grounds to take legal action against the platform on behalf of affected punters.