The Football Pools is being sold for £97.25m by current owners Sportech to a group of gambling industry investors. Sportech wants to sell the betting firm, which began 93 years ago and was once the main way to gamble on football, to focus on its US business. The pools are now played by about 300,000 people, although at their height 10 million players took part. Those Nigerians of age 40 and above should know when “pool” was popular albeit been seen as lazy man’s job.
Football pools started in 1923 when Littlewoods sold them outside Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground. Its success drew criticism from politicians and religious leaders, with the then Labour leader, Ramsay MacDonald, calling it “a disease which spread downwards to the industrious poor from the idle rich”. The game allowed players to place small stakes on football results with the chance of winning a big prize from the pooled money. The pools says it has paid out £3.2bn in prize money to more than 61 million people. Players filled in paper coupons that they submitted by post or through an agent. The aim of the main game was, and still is, to predict eight score draws, although the pools now has various add-on games. In 1961, Viv Nicholson promised to “spend, spend, spend” after her husband Keith won £152,319 – the equivalent of about £3m today. Keith Nicholson died in 1965 and by the end of the 60s the fortune was gone after Viv spent compulsively. Viv Nicholson died this year.