Unless you are a follower of gymnastics, the name of Sam Oldham probably doesn’t mean anything to you. It certainly didn’t to me. And you might wonder why I’m writing a piece about gymnastics on a site about horseracing. But it’s actually a reminder about how miserly and self-serving bookmakers can be.
In this case, Betfred. It all began before the Olympics, when Sam’s grandma, Linda Aldred put a fiver on him with Betfred to win a medal at the Games. Britain was a no hoper in his event, and so the odds were good, 200/1 in fact. So she stood to pick up a grand if he defied the odds and came in the first three. Or so she thought.
Sam had the temerity (and skill), and a team-mate, Louis Smith, with whom he won a bronze medal, and his gran duly went along to collect her winnings. She didn’t have a flutter regularly, although her late husband enjoyed a few quid here and there, and she had put the money on because she thought he would have done just that. Now she was looking forward to having the money for a ticket to Rio in four years time to watch Sam at the Olympics there.
But Betfred was having none of it. They said the bet was for Sam to win an individual medal and not a team gong. They said they had separate markets for the two events. They said they were not paying out.
Fortunately, someone advised Mrs Aldred to take her case to the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS), and she did. Other punters heard of what had happened, and started an online campaign asking people to boycott Betfred if they didn’t pay up.
They didn’t expect to have to pay out, and at odds of 200/1 it’s not that there were thousands of people complaining about the situation. Indeed, Mrs Aldred might well be the only customer who backed Sam.
Now, as a “goodwill gesture” they’ve handed over the money. It’s an incident that leaves a sour taste in the mouth, and makes Betfred look really petty. And it’s taken some of the shine of that glossy pate of Fred Done, too.