East End Memories



Speaking of Horace Bachelor and Keynsham, spelt K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M reminds me …… Football Pools have a long history in the UK. It was introduced by Littlewoods and founded by Sir John Moore and his brother Cecil, in 1923. The first ever jackpot, known then as a first dividend, was worth the princely sum of £2.60. This amount may not sound like particularly impressive today, but it was in fact a princely sum at the time.

Although Football Pools were immediately popular with the public, they did not sit well with the establishment. In fact, Ramsay MacDonald once said that the pools were a disease which spread downwards to the industrious poor from the idle rich!

Fortunately for punters wanting to try their luck (or skill), Football Pools were not outlawed or put out of business and they went from strength to strength. It did not take long before competing companies were formed, each vying for the punter’s money. Vernons Pools came on the scene in 1925, and eight years later in 1933, Zetters Pools became the third company to offer their services to players. In 1945, George Britten started his family football pool firm, Brittens Pools.

Playing the Football Pools before the Internet involved completing by hand the special coupons provided by each of the companies. Initially coupons were readily available from newsagents and tobacconists, places most frequented by the working man. The main football pool companies also provided a service where coupons were hand-delivered directly to players by various networks of collectors across the UK. These collectors acted as middlemen between the punters and the pools companies. Each week, when a collector called to pick-up the completed pools coupon along with the appropriate amount of money necessary to play, a fresh set of coupons for the following week’s series of games would be left.

After operating in this format for many years, the companies went to a postal subscription service. However, collectors have not totally disappeared, as a small number continue to operate in remote areas where players are unable to get their coupons registered in any other ways.

With the launching of the National Lottery in the UK in 1994, it was feared that the Football Pools would suffer a loss of revenue. However, this has not proven to be the case. Whereas winning the National Lottery is a matter of pure chance no matter what the value of the jackpot may be, the chance of winning the football pool is increased with the application of knowledge, judgment and skill.

Today, punters have the choice to register their entry online. This will eventually cause the manual completion of coupons to become redundant in the not-so-distant future. In addition, there is now a wider variety of football pool games on offer compared to those available in the past. Punters are now able to pick the game that best suits both their aspiration and their attitude towards risk.

As you can see, the football pools have come a long way since their introduction, but they remain as popular as ever with the public despite the advent of legalised gambling with its increased competition for betting money. It would seem that the appeal of trying to predict the results of the Saturday football matches together with the chance to win big money remains as enticing as ever.


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