“The large sportsbook operators have been asleep at the wheel,” was one of the more memorable quotes I heard last week while reviewing the first interviews with new William Hill chief executive James Henderson and Ladbrokes’ latest attempt to draw good cheer from poor to middling financial results.
William Hill’s largely excellent results during the latter years of Ralph Topping’s spell as CEO have largely masked the beginnings of a period of great turmoil for UK bookmakers. William Hills’ revenue has risen 49 per cent this decade, up from £997.9m at the end of 2009 to £1.49bn at the end of the last financial year.
However, there has been a storm brewing that might finally break next year and there is a belief that Topping (among others) has done very little to stop it. He will be fondly remembered for many things but diplomacy will probably not be one of them. His quote labelling the Department of Culture Media and Sport the “department of ballet” was recycled by plenty of the national newspapers last week as they looked to illustrate the differing characters of Topping and his successor Henderson.