Football Pools operation to remain in Liverpool following £83m sale

Walton-based gaming group Sportech says it has agreed to sell the Pools to FP Acquisitions, a business controlled by private equity outfit OpCapita LLP. Tony McDonough reports.

Michael Elliott, 56, from Brechin in Scotland, wrote himself into the history books by being the first ever £3m winner on The Football Pools

Football Pools, the game which defied predictions of its imminent doom, is to be sold in an £83m deal – with the operation remaining in Liverpool.

Walton-based gaming group Sportech, which acquired the Littlewoods Pools business in 2000, says it has agreed to sell the division to FP Acquisitions, a business controlled by private equity outfit OpCapita LLP.

Late last year, Sportech had agreed to sell the pools business, which employs around 100 people, to Burlywood Capital for £97.25m but that deal collapsed.

Along with other business partners, tycoon Sir John Moores launched the football pools from an office in Church Street, Liverpool city centre, in 1923.

Click to read how the PM almost scuppered the the birth of the Football Pools

The game, which involved people having to forecast Saturday’s football results, proved a huge hit with the British public and by the 1960s around 14m people played every week in the hope of getting rich.

In 1994 the National Lottery was launched and the number of people playing the game declined sharply. Few believed the pools would survive.

However, a hard core of players stayed loyal and the pools survived. Sportech gave the game a new lease of life and in 2016 there were around 215,000 regular players.

The old coupons have been phased out and people can play online or at WH Smith outlets.

Sportech chief executive, Ian Penrose

Since acquiring Littlewoods Pools Sportech has also bought rival pools games Zetters and Vernons, merging them into the single ‘Football Pools’ brand.

Plans to relocate pools staff into Liverpool city centre will still go ahead.

Sportech is keen to focus its efforts on its growing international gaming business.

Chief executive Ian Penrose, said: “The sale of The Football Pools Business represents an important strategic development for Sportech, having established a strong platform for growth, following completion of an extensive and successful modernisation programme.

“We have delivered our objective of stabilising earnings, and are delighted to have concluded this deal for Sportech’s shareholders, The Football Pools Business and its employees.”

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