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A Brief History of Spot the Ball: From Newspapers to Tech Giants in 100 Years


  • September 16, 2020

Spot the Ball has a long and winding history in the UK and is deeply rooted in the unparalleled love for football and the community around it. The Football Pools was initiated in 1923 when three friends based in Manchester started it out of an office in Liverpool. It was named after one of their surnames as the "Littlewoods Football Pool" and had a very small support base originally.

With time and experience, Littlewoods intensified their efforts to keep people interested, coming up with new things, such as the Treble Chance back in 1946, and in 1957, Pools collectors came in, allowing the company to spread out around the other areas of the United Kingdom.

With a well-developed Spot the Ball software platform and a creative idea for the prize - the sky's the limit.

In 1973, they came up with a new idea, when Spot the Ball became one of the most popular things for people to do. It took off as traditional newspaper promotion where the player had to make a guess about the position of a ball which had been erased from an image of a ball sport, particularly association football; the last big payout being in 2004 in the UK.

Families would be huddled on each side of the kitchen table, trying to figure out where exactly the X should be placed before sending off their coupon. At its peak, about three million people played Spot the Ball, or about 5 percent of the population.

In 2004, just before the most recent winner of the full version of Spot the Ball, Littlewoods was determined to make the game interactive. They began allowing people to play an instant version of the game online, hence marking its entry into the twenty-first century in a suitable manner. 

However, with both the invention of the National Lottery and the transition of bookmakers into the online market, the Football Pools and its Spot the Ball competition saw a decline in its support base. Still, gladly nothing has yet dealt it a fatal blow. Sportech Plc, which initiated as Rodime, purchased Littlewoods Pools in 2000 for 161 million pounds, virtually moving the whole enterprise online. Spot the Ball is a component of that, still accessible and still making people guess where the ball is supposed to be.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Spot the Ball competition is whether it is considered to be a game of chance or a game of skill.  Whether or not it is betting is always dictated by which version of the game it is counted as.

It must be kept in mind that it is not just the Football Pools that operates Spot the Ball competitions, of course. Given the manner in which it can either be a game of chance or a game of skill, many companies utilize Spot the Ball as a way of running competitions without having to get a license for doing so from the Gambling Commission. Spot the Ball is henceforth used in a number of ways by smart companies aspiring to essentially offer a lottery without actually doing so.

One of the biggest competition sites became a public company after starting small back in the 90s. They began trading in 1999 and provides people with the chance to win supercars and classic card, and cash equivalents for figuring out the location of a football in a photograph. Today, it's easier than ever. With a well-developed Spot the Ball software platform and a creative idea for the prize - the sky's the limit.

The game has now become one of the most interactive methods of marketing and can be used in the following ways:

  • For gamifying events 
  • Fundraising for Charitable Causes
  • Supporting grassroots football teams 
  • Prize Competitions, etc.

If you need help developing a legitimate competition site for your company, the experienced team at Tentacle Solutions is happy to assist. Based in Glasgow, Scotland, we deal with all facets of skilled games, including predictive analytics, testing, creative UI/UX services, and more. Contact us today to learn how we can help you create a one-of-a-kind app to suit your unique needs.

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