How do you even sum up this week, for traders?
This is a story about a group of people who have been badly let down.
It may turn out to be deliberate wrongdoing. I personally think it is more likely that it is incompetence and a business that had great promise but just spun out of control.
This was reckless gambling on the part of management, not most traders. Leaders that in the end were just not up to the task of getting this business beyond the start up phase.
Yes, there were always some reckless traders too. But if anything, I think a feature of FI is that it has attracted many very, very intelligent people who have played the game well and yet in the end many have not been rewarded as they should have been.
The management could do the glitz. The early marketing and the Twitter rockets. They could discuss big dreams of alternative asset classes and international expansion and other such wastes of time.
They could not deliver on the basics of making a football betting game with market elements that remained stable as it grew and gave users a chance of a decent return if they traded well.
Utterly unacceptable, and far short of what this great community deserves.
People will be hurting right now. I know I am.
At the moment, we have very limited options. But, I am writing this because I at least want to understand more about the administration process. I think after this, I will be stepping away at least for a few days. But I think I will rest slightly easier if I gain a bit more knowledge about what administration really means.
And perhaps if I share it, it might help a few other people understand more about it too.
Bear in mind, when I started this website, I never thought the day would come that I would be discussing administration procedures. This is not my area of expertise. I know far too much about FI. And not a great deal about administration.
I have however been able to chat to someone who has significant experience of these situations (I have learned to never underestimate this community when it comes to digging up an expert on pretty much anything).
And am primarily sourcing information about the process from the website of Begbies Traynor, the appointed administrator.
To be really, really crystal clear. I am doing this purely as a concerned member of the community, for my own research and sharing it with others. This goes well beyond my area of expertise.
As ever, I am not providing legal or financial advice and if you are taking any actions then you should take professional advice.
Let’s go through FI’s statement paragraph by paragraph and then discuss what it all means as we go.
The Company Announcement
“The dividend restructure announced on Friday was a necessary step in a business recovery plan to seek the long-term sustainability of the platform. However, it is clear that this has not been well received and we need to find a more agreeable way forward.”
This reads as though they are saying they made a genuine attempt to get the platform back on track last Friday night. Leagues, the new dividend structure. That much, at least probably adds up to me.
It’s a decent system, if you were starting from day 1 with a fresh company. I think they settled on possibly their best ever product offer just at the moment it became way, way too late.
I think they would probably not have bothered with all that if they had just given up already pre-Friday. Just cut and run, save yourself the effort. But that’s just my take.
Clearly, I don’t think they expected this news to have quite such a devastating impact on the market. But again, with these volatile market mechanics we have discussed so many times where just one trader can move mountains, how could you expect this news to generate any kind of different result? Of course that was going to happen, and you must expect the worst in that scenario.
Again, this comes back to competence. Perhaps a market suspension of a week to make their case for why it is not all a disaster and give people more than a handful of hours overnight to process it.
Certainly, I could work out how a trader could still find value in the product and share that information, but can enough people process and absorb that between 10pm and 7am over Friday to Saturday? Absurd.
I have seen people say it is their own fault for cashing out in a panic. I could not disagree more. Even traders with ice in their veins had little chance of staying calm under these conditions.
Another way this could have been avoided is if the platform was not built on market mechanics that encouraged hype in the good times, and possibly fatally, magnified price drops in the bad. It all comes back to competence.
There are ways this could have been done better that might, and it is a thin hope, lead to a more considered reaction. But with the way this was done? I can totally understand why someone would just want to get out and take whatever they can get.
That, coupled with the devastating social media and press coverage in the days that followed probably made them think they just had no hope of progressing, at least under the current management team and without more support from stakeholders including traders at large.
I think most of us had come to that conclusion too.
“We are pursuing a restructuring arrangement to be agreed with our stakeholders including, most importantly, our community. We are preparing this through an administration with insolvency practitioners Begbies Traynor, to seek the best outcome for customers with the goal of continuing the platform in a restructured form.”
This appears to be good for those hoping for FI to continue in some way.
And, from chatting this through with our resident expert and also trawling online sources – it is indeed the first port of call in any administration process to try to rescue the business, according to Begbies Traynor:
Administration can only be entered into if it is to achieve one of the three statutory purposes of administration, which are:
- To rescue the company as a going concern
- If administration would achieve a better result for the company’s outstanding creditors than would be possible if the company was wound up and placed into liquidation without first being in administration
- If neither of the first two objectives is possible, the third objective is to realise any property or substantial assets in order to make a distribution to secured and/or preferential creditors
But having educated myself a bit further, it is not quite that bleak. It is supposed to offer breathing space and the legal protection required to come up with a workable plan for the future.
In fact many high profile companies are currently in administration such as Arcadia group, Debenhams etc. It is not uncommon and not irrecoverable. But I think the nature of FI, with it being a unique and novel concept that has only 5 years or so of history is at much greater risk than a Department store.
An administrator will be well aware of what makes a Department store tick. How will they get a handle on whether a football stockmarket can work? It’s a tougher job, even for them.
The first thing they will likely look at is whether the existing company can continue but likely with major changes at the top, some form of agreed basis to work on (possibly including a game and dividend structure that had community support and was signed off by trusted third party professionals as viable.)
I would really like to see the concept of any payouts being a percentage of market performance rather than fixed be explored. Any future company needs to have far, far fewer incentives to hide problems from users. And for that matter, fewer incentives to manufacture that macho appearance of invincibility and strength just to encourage deposits.
As much as the individuals are at fault, I think the way FI was setup would bring out the worst in even some good people. Those incentives have to change if FI or anything like it progresses.
Now, should it be unviable for the business to continue in that form – it is likely because it doesn’t have enough money even to service a cheaper game as introduced last Friday. If it has some money, but no trust. That is possibly fixable with massive changes.
But if it has no money, it doesn’t matter what changes are made or not.
In that scenario, the administrators would be looking for a company that can bankroll things to come in. Again, we’d still need massive changes and assurances. To get a licence, surely you would not just be able to come in, throw some money in, and set up FI or something like it and just continue how things were before.
So you’d need a big firm, someone like 365, who would be attracted by the (undoubtedly) dedicated and tragically loyal community and userbase.
Fact is, management team aside. There are so many people who love this product. Who will miss, enormously, caring what is going on in the Bundesliga tommorow. I know I am one of them.
There is a market there. I still believe that competent people could make a product like this work. It is difficult because none of us have access to the books.
And yet. Such a takeover company is taking over a damaged brand and possibly a damaged concept overall and would have to surely be prepared to operate at a loss for quite some time as confidence was gradually restored, which would be the work of years.
So whilst that remains possible. I wouldn’t get our hopes up for that.
And, should it not be possible for the existing company to continue with changes, and should nobody buy it, that’s when we are in liquidation territory.
It’s really hard to say what would happen here. It is likely traders with money remaining in FI are quite far down the queue. There is more optimism for those with Cash Balances apparently. But the value of shares?
Often, something like 10p in the £1 is a reasonable expectation in a normal liquidation. But in FI? 10p in the £1 of what? Total deposits? End portfolio value by buy price? Average Offer Price!? (hahah). I think it is hard to know what this would be.
It is quite hard to see how a liquidated company would leave most of us with much, but I don’t know for sure.
It probably seems like those with interest remaining in FI might be best served by a recovery in some form. From what I gather, liquidation is very unlikely to be returning significant sums to us. But again, I am not an expert here.
“The restructure could involve equity in BetIndex Limited being distributed to customers, board representation for customers, and a new management team put in place, along with other initiatives.”
So yes, I am sure people could be found to provide advice to the company at least. It would take a hell of a lot for me from here to sign my name to any future company as a viable product, and I’d want that in blood from the administrators. But, this could be one possible step as part of many that could restore trust. But even then, trust takes years to build.
The company would have to be prepared to operate at a loss until that could be gradually restored. Which would be possible, I think. With the will, the money, and the right team.
“Until such time as the administrators are in office, the platform will remain suspended and no trading or payment transactions, such as deposits and withdrawals, will be possible. Once in office, the administrators will be in contact with customers, creditors, and other stakeholders. This interim step of suspending the platform is merely to ensure that everyone’s rights are preserved in relation to funds held by BetIndex Limited.”
So we have a suspended platform at least until the administrator is appointed in the next 10 days.
I would hope that means that when the administrator comes in, they might allow money in balances to be withdrawn.
I hope it does not mean that FI will open up for trading and the game starts again under the administrator!
That would seem like an odd situation. Whilst many companies do continue trading during administration, this would strike me as the correct time for a pause in this market.
If trading restarts at all, it surely has to be on a sustainable footing. We don’t want anyone depositing in hope of major gains from the ashes here.
I would be pretty sure the administrator will come to that conclusion, and the reason it is open ended will be because the current management will have no say in that as soon as the administrators are appointed.
But who knows, it’s a potential variable. (Edit: I have now seen the licence is suspended, so the chances of a restart under administrators now looks very slim).
“The Board have at all times been seeking the best way to sustain the platform as we believed a recovery was not only possible but also in the best interests of our customers. This decision is deeply regrettable, and is the outcome we were seeking to avoid by restructuring dividends. However, we believe it is the most responsible route forward for our community given the situation as it has developed.”
More words that suggest that until the reaction to the announcement FI believed that the new Leagues system and dividend restructure could have restored balance.
If there is one, very thin, hope in that for the platform I guess it would be that less than a week ago, FI believed they had a shot at turning this around provided traders remained supportive of prices in the 50p to £3 range with the bulk of useful players sitting at £1 to £1.50.
And they will have done the math and are the only ones capable of really doing so. But of course we now have zero trust in their ability to do that competently. And I for one, am looking forward to seeing any kind of results of the administrator crawling all over those books.
But a week ago, FI seem to believe they had the money to finance this new cheaper game. Unless they have quickly funnelled that somewhere, which would be egregious, that money should still be there.
So you could say that were enough steps taken by the administrator to make enough traders confident – maybe there is a chance for a viable product to emerge. But how much would it take before someone trusted their money to this company again? Mountain to climb doesn’t even cut it.
But a new management team? A sign off from administrators that they think it is actually a viable business? Maybe that gives some confidence. There is certainly no scenario where the administrator would pass the business on if they did not think it is viable, so if it does survive, that would be at least something it had going for it.
“The administrators will release a statement upon their formal appointment by the Court, which is anticipated to be in the next 10 days and will be able to share further timelines at that point.”
Timing will be important. As above, the administrators should be appointed within 10 days.
There is a date to note after that, as within 14 days after appointment, the administrators have to decide whether they are taking on the employment contracts of staff.
So, if we were to find out that the staff are being laid off soon – would that be an indicator that it may be heading for liquidation rather than continuation. Or indeed, vice versa? I’m unclear there.
The more formal method according to the gov.uk website is that from appointment the administrator has 8 weeks to write a statement explaining what they plan to do. So, we should have at least some idea of what is planned within 8 weeks.
That could be: (and ignore the “your” business references)
- negotiate a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) so your company can keep trading
- sell your business as a ‘going concern’ to another company – meaning your business can carry on, eg by keeping its clients, workforce or orders
- sell your assets as part of a creditors’ voluntary liquidation, pay your creditors from any money raised and close your company
- close your company if there’s nothing to sell
A contribution here from the expert is that he feels the administration process may move quite quickly. The longer you leave the platform suspended, the harder the platform is to revive.
So if FI really do have this plan to get back on it’s feet with a ton of changes and community involvement and agreement – that may well happen within weeks.
Liquidation however can often drag on for many months or even years, so again, it looks difficult to recover much money anytime soon from this route.
I hope that helps gives readers some idea of what administration really means. Writing it certainly improved my knowledge of this.
Again, just a reminder that I am just a man who knows a lot of about football and football games, and a whole lot less about administration practice. So do seek professional advice if you are taking any action.
FI is not dead. But I think even the most optimistic person would find it hard to even give it 50/50 from here.
70/30 in favour of finished, maybe? 80/20? Interestingly, both I and the expert I chatted to gave that same sort of gut feel chance. Not optimistic, but not yet hopeless either.
I think my strategy for coping mentally is that at this point I will consider it over, if only for peace of mind. And then be pleasantly surprised if we do get any positive from here at all.
It would seem that for those with interest remaining in FI, the best hope for salvaging anything from this would be a recovery of the company in some form.
But as I say, it would need so many measures to restore trust. And enough money to ride that out over the long road of trust being restored. Plus it would need Begbies Traynor to sign off on the business having a credible shot of long term viability.
It’s a big shopping list for those of us, me included, who would like to see the product return if it can in a sustainable and responsible form. With cooler heads at the helm.
I hope so because many people, myself included, have had their lives turned upside down by this.
Whether people think it was criminal or the more boring yet more likely explanation of colossal incompetence, we can all agree that this fiasco was utterly unacceptable and that this community deserved so much better.
In particular, for those I see blaming themselves, whilst I have always been an advocate of personal responsibility for pretty much everything, I think it is very clear who shoulders the lion’s share of the blame for this fiasco.
FI promised so much and didn’t deliver. And it is their customers who have suffered the most.
To All the Amazing Site Members
Many of you have supported me for years, and especially, during the events of the past week.
In situations like this, you often find out who people really are. And I have been bowled over by the warmth and support that is out there from so many great people who have helped each other through this.
If there is one positive thing this week, it has been genuine messages of support and concern for others that have flooded my inboxes.
Thank you, genuinely.
That kept me going producing content in a very, very difficult time. And if all that just helped a few people understand what on earth was going on that little bit better, that was worth it.
As of today all subscriptions will be paused indefinitely, and I am not making anyone go through the admin of cancelling them. I am not going to sit here like the band that continued playing on the titanic when it was sinking, desperately trying to drag up content that nobody currently needs.
If we hit a point where it looks like we have a viable product to discuss and there is genuine and regular content that I can feel good about producing they can be unpaused. But I am not expecting to do so for quite some time, if ever.
This will take me a few days to action, so if your bill date happens to be in the next couple of days it may still go through, but I’ll refund it anyway.
Whilst frequency of updates will reduce as I regroup, I will not be going away and will continue to comment on the twists and turns that lay ahead.
And who knows, there are so many people who love this product and will genuinely miss the match day experience. Perhaps if FI does not make it, something more sustainable and responsible run by people who deserve this community could one day fill the space.
p.s this is a really, really rough time for many. Know that there is support out there, and you do not need to suffer in silence. Reach out and talk it through with someone because sharing it can really help. My DM’s and emails are open. And I recommended having a read of the resources on here too.