Latest Cases - January 2011

5th January 2011

Good afternoon, friends,

In this issue of Punters' Verdict...

  • The inside money tells the real story...
  • Events that shame all involved...
  • Acceptable or an abuse of privilege? 

The inside money tells the real story...

After a hectic programme of fixtures over the Christmas and New Year
period, Roy Hodgson (Liverpool), Mark Hughes (Fulham), Carlo
Ancelotti (Chelsea) and Avram Grant (West Ham) are the helmsmen who
find themselves looking most fretfully down the barrel of a gun.

The way the bookies call it one of this quartet will be the next
Premier League manager to be relieved of his duties or, depending on
the way you see it, put out of his misery.

Should any of these under-pressure gaffers want to know exactly
where they stand at any point in time - or require advance-warning
of the termination of their contract - then they could do a lot
worse than keep an eye on the 'Next Manager To Leave Post' betting
odds.

Fact is that these days the market will deliver a more accurate
assessment of a manager's true position than any statement
from the boardroom
. These days the real vote of confidence - at
least the one that matters - comes from the bookmakers and not from
the suits in the executive seats.

And, when it comes to the end of the road, the market is as likely
to let you know as the chairman. That's the way of it these days
when you're managing a Premier League side - the money tells you how
it is and what you can expect.

Events that shame all involved...

Look at what happened when Chris Hughton was deemed to be surplus to
requirements at Newcastle United early in December. He didn't hear
it first from Mike Ashley or from one of Ashley's lackeys. He was
told he was out of a job by the market. The bookmakers knew he was
dead and buried before he did.

At 8am on the Monday morning of his sacking he was 15/1 with William
Hill to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post. In
other words he was thought by the market makers and the punters to
be as safe in his job as Everton manager David Moyes is this morning
- and it would be a big surprise if Moyes was going anywhere.

But by midday William Hill had closed the book on Hughton, Skybet
had slashed the odds about him to 1/2 and bigwigs from Ladbrokes
were swanning around a luncheon with journalists in London
announcing with complete and utter confidence that Hughton was a
dead man walking.

At some point shortly afterwards somebody finally had the good grace
to inform Chris Hughton of what everybody else already seemed to
know and the official announcement was made by the club.

It's not a particularly edifying sequence of events for anybody
involved. But it's absolutely crystal clear what happened:

1.    Somebody on the inside, some crony of Mike Ashley or one of
his people, gets wind of developments - one way or another - and
spots an opportunity to make himself a few quid.

2.    He gets on the phone - or most likely gets someone to get on
the phone - and tries to get as much money on as he can before the
bookmakers cotton on to what's going down.

3.    Alerted either by sheer weight of money or the identity and
significance of the punter/punters involved, the bookmakers realise
something is happening and take steps to minimise potential
liabilities - by either slashing the odds about Hughton or
suspending the market so that nobody can get on at all. 

The upshot? The man on the inside makes a sweet profit, the bookies
get out without taking too much of a financial bath, the ordinary
punter remains in ignorance and is never at the races and, of
course, poor old Chris Hughton, whose Newcastle side had very
recently drubbed arch-rivals Sunderland 5-1, is out on his ear.

Acceptable or an abuse of position?

In the world of high-finance - where embezzlement, fraud and sharp
practice have been systematically honed into some kind of art form -
they have a name for what's happened here. It's called INSIDER
DEALING.

Insider dealing is when an employee or someone involved with a
company uses confidential and price-sensitive information for their
own gain via share dealing. It's illegal.

You don't have to work directly for a company to commit an insider
dealing offence. You might be a stockbroker or a merchant banker
working with a company rather than for it. But if, for example, you
know something about an impending takeover and you buy shares with
the intention of making a killing when the company's share price
rises then you are insider dealing and committing a criminal
offence.

If you get a friend to buy the shares on your behalf you are still
committing an offence - you are still guilty of insider dealing
. You
are profiting from information that is not available to the wider
market. You are using your insider status to secure an unfair
advantage - and it is not allowed.

I'm pretty sure that I don't need to walk you through the parallels
between insider dealing in the world of stocks and shares and what
went on in the gambling markets in the immediate run-up to Chris
Hughton's sacking? 

The Judge Decides...

It really is coming to something when the crooked environment of
high-finance, stocks and share dealing can clearly be seen to be
both cleaner and fairer than the marketplace we punters are
expected to operate within.

The Gambling Commission is Great Britain's regulatory body for most
forms of gambling. Amongst its stated intentions and objectives is
to keep crime out of gambling and to ensure that gambling is
conducted fairly and openly.

The betting activity surrounding Chris Hughton's sacking had very
little to do with either fairness or openness - but I am not aware
of any Gambling Commission interest in the case.

It is my belief that 'insiders' should be barred from profiting from
information not available to the rest of the market and which they
come across in the course of their work or as a result of insider
'connections'.

Of course, the bookmakers aren't pushing to get the cheating stamped
out. The situation suits them. A bit of insider betting alerts them
to facts and events earlier than the wider market - they are
facilitating the bets after all - and enables them to shorten
prices, suspend markets and protect their own interests accordingly.

In cases like the one I have outlined today, I would like to see
bookmakers forced to disclose the details of suspect bets to the
regulatory authorities so that they can be scrutinised and
investigated.

Where it can be proved that 'insiders' placed or were behind suspect
bets then they should be named and shamed at the very least or, in
an ideal world, prosecuted in just the same way as the insider
dealers of stocks and shares are prosecuted.

Until such steps are taken the 'fair' and 'open' gambling
environment the authorities insist they want to create will
represent little more than a pipe dream trotted out for purposes of
Public Relations - and the greedy insiders - like those who profited
from Hughton's sacking at Newcastle - will be the only winners.

I'll back with the Verdict next week.

The Judge

www.PuntersVerdict.co.uk

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