A regular activity for countless people in Britain and abroad is filling in coupons for the weekly football pools.
A regular activity for countless people in Britain and abroad is filling in coupons for the weekly football pools. With thousands of coupons pouring in every week to the major pools promoters, the activity has become a major industry in the past year. Each week, hundreds of thousands of Pounds Sterling are paid out to winners all over the world while those who haven't won make their plans for the following week's entry.
One winner last week was Roman Catholic priest Father James Curtin, whose GBP10 Sterling stake brought him a jackpot win of GBP109,600 Sterling.
Basically, football pools are a pastime in which bettors, or "punters" as they are called, mark down on a special coupon what they think the results of the week's football matches will be. The size of the win is determined by how many people have the correct results and how much was staked initially. There are many possible permutations as people can bet a variety of stakes on as many matches being played as they wish -- the more matches covered that are correct, the bigger the eventual win. Pools are also played on cricket and foreign football as well.
Processing the coupons and handling the finances has become a large-scale operation. From their headquarters -- many in Liverpool -- the promotion firms have many people checking the coupons, both visually and with computers, while others ensure that security is maintained in the face of possible cheating.
When the coupons come into the pools firm -- one such being Vernons in Liverpool -- they are opened under high-security conditions. Money stakes are removed and the coupons are colour-coded to ensure that it's always known when the, arrived. Because the matches are played on Saturdays, 11 eligible coupons must arrive before, during the week. Any coupon, that has no colour code is therefore instantly suspect.
The coupons are then checked for possible winners -- first by girls using marking-cards who spot potential winners visually. Coupons thought to be wins are then narrowed down further by a special series of sorting machines including a large computer installation to keep track of the massive numbers of coupons as well as the variety of possible winning methods.
Because of the massive sums of money involved, pools firms are very security-conscious. Closed-circuit television cameras scan the girls as they check the coupons to ensure that a winning card made up after the matches have been played is not added to legitimate entries. The promoters are also on the look-out for evidence of posting after the matches which would invalidate the entry. They take care not to lose coupons to avoid the problem of a person for whom no coupon can be found claiming he has won. The firms say they make a complete search of all their buildings whenever such a claim is made. When a winning coupon is unclaimed, the promoters inform the punters themselves.
Father Curtin's win was announced on Tuesday (5 January), after he chose eight matches which ended in draws on Saturday (2 January). One of the matches he chose was the Glasgow Ranger-Celtic match in which 66 spectators were killed in a crush on an exit staircase.
The 51-year-old Irish-born priest, whose income is GBP800 Sterling, said he was giving most of his prize money away. He has already allotted GBP84,000 Sterling to various charities. Those he has chosen include the East Pakistan Disaster Fund and the Glasgow Ibrox Park Disaster Fund. He says he only wanted a few thousand Sterling to pay off a debt on the local church hall in Walsall.
Although Father Curtin's win is large, there have been others with even more money involved. Vernons say their record pay-out was GBP215,727 Pounds Sterling for a stake of only one-quarter of a penny.