Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Worrying future ahead for Rangers and the SPL
What an eventful couple of weeks it has been since my last blog.
Camelot, as expected, romped home in the Investec Derby for Aidan O'Brien, ridden by son Joseph in what was a momentous occasion for the O'Brien family.
Last time I mentioned that Derby fever had yet to strike, but that all changed on the Friday when Was won the Oaks. It kick-started another huge weekend of Classic action, and Saturday did not disappoint either with another big increase in figures. I say increase in figures, but certainly not all columns as the profit figure saw a large minus by the end of the evening. Camelot proved what most punters already knew and, even taking into account the unusually small Derby field, it was a majestic performance, one which has sparked the call for a meeting with the mighty Frankel.
In many punters’ eyes that would make up for the disappointment of not getting to see what would have happened if Frankel had met Black Caviar and I must say it is an exciting prospect.
So whilst Camelot winning was very much expected, the major talking point in Selkirk has been all about a tale of the unexpected. All the focus in my Scotbet shop over the past few days has centred on the imminent demise of Glasgow Rangers Football Club; a club almost everyone believed was too big to fold.
Rangers are a massive team with a huge support. They are the world's most successful football club on a domestic level, having won an incredible 54 League titles as well as numerous Scottish FA and Scottish League Cups.
Their only European success to date came in 1972 when the European Cup Winners’ Cup was captured in a famous night in Barcelona and, in as recently as 2008, they contested the UEFA Cup final in Manchester, going down to an Andrey Arshavin-inspired Zenit St. Petersburg. I travelled down to Manchester for that match. All accommodation was booked out and a few of us ended up sleeping in my car. I know I was not alone in doing this; the 'Blue Tsunami' as it became known transported an estimated 200,000 fans to the city. Scenes inside the stadium were unbelievable, but the disappointment felt in defeat is nothing compared to the disappointment of knowing the club will in all essence cease to exist.
There will be a transfer of football assets and a 'Newco' (New Company) set up. Next season 'Rangers' will play in blue at Ibrox Stadium, but as hard as it is to accept the Rangers that I know and love will be liquidated and a new team will play in their place. Whether that be in the Scottish 3rd Division, as most football fans north of the Border surprisingly appear to want, or the SPL is another matter. There is a split in opinion as to what this would do to Scottish Football as a whole. It is widely accepted that the standard of football up here is not what it has been. It has been on the slide for some time but many, including our shop’s Eurovision tipping expert Ben, believe that other clubs could prosper with no Rangers.
The argument he makes is with more to play for and a more competitive league crowds would grow and interest in our league would follow suit. Many like him feel that Celtic would find somewhere else to play (both Old Firm clubs have been trying to enter the English League for some time and as recently as last week Celtic had to deny they were in talks with the Dutch FA about a move) and the other teams would all have a chance.
By contrast, Scott and many others argue that without the revenue that Rangers bring to the league with the enormous travelling support and sponsorship they generate then many other clubs will quickly go to the wall. To put into perspective the troubles the game faces up here let me tell you of this scenario. After Rangers were placed into administration on Valentines Day they had a match against Dunfermline, and owed the Pars around £50,000 for the tickets sold. The delay in Dunfermline receiving that money led to the players receiving their salary late, a feeling that Hearts players know all to well with three months pay also being delayed to them this season alone.
It is all a million miles away from the impressive start we have seen to Euro 2012 and hopefully that entertainment will continue to at least delay the gloom that surrounds our game right now.
The gulf in the finances of the top leagues North and South of the Border has never more been apparent as this week the Barclays Premier League announced a broadcasting rights deal worth a staggering £1b per season. Football is a major source of income to our shop and with the fixture list to be revealed this Monday and still no sign of a definitive outcome to Rangers woes it does not bode well for the clubs or the bookmakers in Scotland who rely so heavily on this market.
Speaking of gulfs in finances, I was lucky enough to attend the SIS Customer Forum at Hamilton Park on Wednesday and what an enlightening day it was. Enlightening and alarming. There were around a dozen independent bookmakers represented. For anyone who uses the term "You never see a poor bookie" well, think again. I'm sure most would agree that the service SIS provides is exceptional. It is provided however at an ever increasing cost and with the emergence of Turf TV costs have soared for the 'one-man-bands', the little guys.
There is confusion as to whether data providing company Openbet will continue to supply information to tills and screens for many independent bookmakers which, if it were to stop, would be catastrophic for many, and would no doubt result in many closures.
I was there with our Racing Manager Bill Stratton and after the volatile meeting ended he told me how many of the faces who had been present at past meetings were no longer in business. Judging by the full and frank comments at this year’s event it is sad to say I would be surprised to see everyone there again next time.
Technology is moving on and many are being left behind. I am relieved to say our website, Scotbet.com, has had a massive upgrade and we have integrated a new casino section in there, but you really fear the worst for those who right now do not hold those capabilities.
To end on a positive note we have the rest of the Euros to look forward to, hopefully England can continue after a promisingly solid start.
Royal Ascot is also just round the corner where we will be treated to performances from the two highest rated horses on the planet, Frankel and Black Caviar among others. I'll be asking my customers what think about that a little closer to the time. Until then, happy punting!