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ORIGINS OF THE POOLS

While working for the Commercial Cable Training Company, Colin Askham, Bill Hughes and John Moores became united in their desire to earn big money and change their family’s trajectory. John had heard of a failed football pools business in Birmingham which he saw as an opportunity, so Bill set about obtaining a coupon. Once they had a rough business idea they had to think of a name, one which was unidentifiable given a company policy forbidding multiple employment. So Colin Askham’s pre-adoption family name, Littlewoods, was adopted in 1923 and Littlewoods Football Pool was born. To get the business off the ground, each member would invest £50 (just over £2,000 today) and they would order 4,000 coupons to be released in February 1924.

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When matchday morning arrived the trio were without a distributor, so John rushed to the match himself, subtly recruiting a few young boys to hand out coupons. Of the 4000 they had printed, only 35 were returned. The next week was even worse: the trio had 10,000 coupons printed, this time with only one being returned. Fearing the worst, Colin and Bill agreed to cut their losses, yet John’s belief in the business was unwavering, so he offered to pay back their losses (which were now £200 each) if they sold him their shares. The rest is history... but before things got better they got worse. Meanwhile, John was living with his wife Ruby who was pregnant with their firstborn in Walton, they had to let go of the office and typist on Church Street.

From then on, all coupons were handled from home with the help of Ruby’s fervent encouragement and two interchanging siblings brought over from Manchester for the weekend. It was all hands on deck but the business was still making losses, until his printer gave him some valuable advice in 1925 - take out his expenses plus a little commission to avoid inevitable bankruptcy, instead of the 10% cap he allowed himself. It was this insight that catapulted the business into the betting stratosphere and by March 1927 there were four different pools and 20,000 coupons coming in weekly.   

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