Betfair: where did it all go wrong?

Betting as it shouldn't be
Betting as it shouldn't be

When Betfair first launched in 1999 they were a breath of fresh air to sports betting. No longer was the punter slave to restrictive margins and antepost markets. Edward Wray and Andrew Black had given rise to the dawning of a new era of in-running betting, person-to-person wagering and excellent value.

But where is that value today? Despite being worth more than the average GNP of Angola and seemingly recruiting for new highly paid positions in their labyrinthine organization on a daily basis, they are investing in little that is of any use to their customers.

In a bid to drum up new business for their football coupons the Hammersmith-based betting exchange has just launched a marketing campaign featuring Andy Gray. But why? Everyone knows that the problem with Betfair’s football multiples are that the prices are about 20% smaller than they are on the exchange. Sound familiar? They’ll be painting pots black next.

Betfair seem to have entered the realm of developing new products for the sake of it. Rather than improving the user experience, they have taken to adding layer upon layer of fluff. Rather like this writer. Why can’t they tell the difference between quality and quantity? As I’ve often said about Keira Knightley, less is more. More or less.

But when you try and get to a market other than football or racing quickly you have to click more times than a bubble wrap addict opening a 180-piece dinner service set.

Come to think of it, betting on the football and racing isn‘t exactly shelling peas. And why in the name of long-shot winners do they insist on displaying the message, “Warning: you have entered odds greater than 99”. “Yes, I know I have.” you want to cry. It’s like Chris Tarrant trying to talk a contestant out of his final answer on Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire. When I back a 100/1 shot with a traditional bookmaker they don’t come over to me and say “What do you think you’re doing? There’s a perfectly reasonable 7/4 shot you should be backing. Leave that rag alone.” No, they don’t. No.

Customer experience aside, there is a smug and pompous arrogance oozing from every pore like their facile pink and blue children’s colour scheme. Come on someone else! Come on and challenge them! Give them a run for their money. Get rid of those ridiculous cartoon characters that actually define the management board rather than a marketing campaign that has gone on for far too long.

I hanker for their early days, when innovation was still a by-word for Betfair. Even short-lived ideas like Betfair Bob was streets ahead of anything they do now. Betfair Bob was a marketing campaign based around the exploits of a cartoon character drawn by the Punch cartoonist Bill Stott – and is sorely missed. At least there was a simple honesty to the character.

But then the suits from the mobile phone companies got involved. Which is ironic, given that Betfair’s mobile phone platform won’t work on my HTC Hero.

It’s all simply too annoying for the layman – or the backer. But of course – until there is realistic and viable competition to them – we are stuck with them. Betfair indeed. BetUnfair, more like.