Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Dorset Rise

There was a certain irony to the start of my day yesterday. I went to a Social Mentoring briefing at KPMG's offices, which meant walking up the hill between Tudor Street and Fleet Street along a small road called Dorset Rise.

It was on that very street, in December 1999, that my senior salesman at the time chatted to me, unknowingly, about the multiple moonlighting from JPMorgan that had seen me taking numerous days off over the previous few months to fulfil commitments with BBC Sport and the Daily Telegraph.

He put his arm around me and said, "Mark: can I just say, as we head into the new year and a new decade, that I hope your luck changes... I've never known someone suffer so much illness, the loss of two family members, and the death of so many friends in one year." It was at that moment that I realised that doing two jobs alongside my main contracted one was untenable in the longer term, and I resolved to quit.

So it was ironic that I should have found myself on that same street yesterday morning, the very morning that I quit the job that I went to from JP, at Betfair. Ten years on from last resolving to do so, I have resigned.

It's been fun. But in recent months I haven't been able to offer Betfair as much as I'd like to of what I think I am best at; so I think it's time to move on to new things.

I have set up a company of my own, Camberton, which will offer to a broader church (i.e. I'm on the look-out for clients!) the sort of thing that I have been responsible for at Betfair over the last decade: reputation management, public affairs, PR, communications, and external stakeholder management. It's something I have talked about for a long time and now is the time to do it. And I'm pleased that Betfair think I still have a role in offering that kind of thing to them, because they are my first client! Many of the challenges that I have worked on for them remain, and I will be continuing to advise and work with them on those for at least the next twelve months.

On that, I've had various thoughts, which I have been jotting down but not publishing, on many of the industry issues in recent months. Now that it is clear that the thoughts are mine and not an official Betfair position, I'll stick them out over the coming days and weeks for those who are interested, in the order I wrote them, starting here and here.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


I was interested to see that a company called Friendbet has been licensed to operate in France.

I always knew the French hadn't understood what a betting exchange was.

They set out to ban exchanges, and came out with legislation that they think has done it.
And then they license Friendbet.

What do they think that is, if not an exchange?

Monday, 28 June 2010

Dixon and Blatter

I read the comments from Paul Dixon about the need to return to a turnover-based levy system with my head in my hands. It's taken me 48 hours to get them out again, and even know I wonder if it is worth writing about which bit of it I found the saddest.

Perhaps it was the particular and pointed exoneration of Sportingbet for paying a voluntary levy suspected to be in five figures, without mention of the voluntary levy paid by Betfair, which is comfortably into seven.

Or maybe it was hearing that notion repeated that a turnover system, which in my view encourages a high margin from operators and therefore will ultimately kill the racing completely in a competitive world, is somehow a lifeline.

I'm not sure. But it reinforced my view that racing continues to be led by people who claim in one breath to want innovation, and then with the next want to pick and choose parts of an innovative model, as if doing so doesn't destroy the whole.

I saw a great Tweet from BBC Sport's Jacqui Oatley this weekend, which read, "Blatter saying there's no need for goal-line technology is like your grandpa saying the internet's pointless."

I would categorise Paul Dixon's comments in the same category, because he insists - in line with racing's other 'leaders' - that the levy is having problems because of the single most notable innovation in betting in the last decade. The reason that the levy is struggling, he says, is that the betting landscape has changed because of "the extraordinary growth of betting exchanges. Exchanges have changed the whole dynamics of betting in recent years and, in particular, they have had a major effect on margins. Indeed, a by-product of returning to a turnover system would deal with the problem that racing has with the exchanges not paying an adequate amount into the Levy in one fell swoop – they would simply be paying a lot more than they are now.”

Leave aside the clear demonstration from this excerpt that the levy debate has nothing at all to do with what is right or logical, and everything to do with the 'we just want more money' attitude that is endemic in racing's upper echelons; and consider instead what that statement is actually saying. If you ask me, it reads, "the betting industry has moved towards the future; racing's response should be to try to stifle its innovation by moving back to the past."

Dixon for the FIFA job, perhaps?

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Productivity Commission

It doesn't surprise me to find myself amused by the reaction of Tabcorp's Chief Executive to the findings of the Productivity Commission report in Australia, but somehow, despite everything, I still find myself astonished at the way some people believe that they have a right to protection from market forces that everyone else has to deal with as a way of life.

I'm not suggesting that everything in life should happen without regard to potential consequences, but to argue that the Productivity Commission's report 'shows a serious lack of understanding of these industries, both in Australia and around the world" is just arrogant and insulting.

I would say precisely the contrary is true: the report shows a complete understanding of the industries and the issues, and, shaking its head in bewilderment at the way in which those who are part of them believe that they should be able to maintain the status quo which has seen them spend many years in the sun, it suggests ways to allow more people to play.

Cyberhorse put it like this yesterday: "This clutch of multi-millionaires want a racing industry structured so that literally millions of little people - punters, low paid workers, small breeders and hobby owners, dutifully contribute to bloated service fees and artificially inflated bloodstock values. They have achieved this position over a long time by basically ignoring the Trade Practices Act and the Australian Constitution, arranging state laws and Rules of Racing to bolster their position."

For the second time in a week, well said Bill Saunders.

Svenska Spel

Really, you have to laugh your little cotton socks off.

Although, inexplicably, I can't find a link to the press release on the web, among ones which laud their brilliance in combatting problem gambling and things, I gather from other websites that Svenska Spel have fired their CEO.

This in itself is not amusing. I'm sorry for the lady. No-one wants to lose a job.

But it's when you get lines like this in news reports that you have to suppress a smile:

During Persdotter’s first quarter in charge, net gaming revenues at Svenska Spel’s online division fell 15 per cent for poker while lotteries fell 18 per cent, games fell 10 per cent and sportsbetting fell 3.5 per cent. The company however welcomed the decline as evidence of the effectiveness of newly introduced responsible gaming measures and a reduction in marketing expenditure.

On that basis, why fire your CEO for 'mixed results'?

The hypocrisy of the monopoly systems around Europe has surely never been laid barer. You're hired to introduce measures to limit gambling because it sounds good politically in defending your monopoly to the European Commission, but when you are entirely successful in doing that, you lose your job.

Let's just admit what we all always knew, that they don't want gambling limited at all: they just want the people who can profit from it limited.

In firing their CEO, Svenska Spel have just proved it.

Monday, 21 June 2010

More on Australia

There's some great stuff appearing on the court decision in Australia.

If you've missed them, there's another brilliant piece from Cyberhorse here. And Betfair's Australian CEO Andrew Twaits gives his view of the world here.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Racing NSW case

The reaction to the judgment handed down in Betfair's case against Racing New South Wales is fascinating.

Some have pointed out that there are fairly technical reasons for Betfair's case being dismissed (the judge accepting that the turnover fee was discriminatory in favour of TabCorp and against Betfair, but dismissing the claim that it was protectionist), such that the eventual outcome may well change; others outline that it is not the victory for racing that it immediately appears; and others still, pointing to the Sportsbet victory the same day, show how the combined judgments will impact the future governance of racing.

Others close to racing, though, are hailing it as a 'great opportunity' for the sport.

I find racing's thinking, as exemplified on the final link, incredibly muddled. The dispute shouldn't be over the idea that racing should be able to charge. The question for me is what basis of charge is the best for the industry's future.

But consider the Racenet article referenced immediately above. In one line it says, "Racing in effect is now free to claim a percentage of every dollar wagered on its sport, no matter where in Australia it is wagered – a stunning opportunity to be sure" and a few paragraphs later it accepts that 'Huge amounts of money can churn around within the system with the same dollar going through a bookie then the tote as it’s laid off. A new turnover tax on that amounts to a double dipping."

So, which do you want it to be? A turnover tax is not a tax on punter drop, by definition. It's a tax on turnover, and turnover has nothing do with what the punter spends or what the operator makes. That's not my judgment alone: Justice Perram thought that turnover had no utility as a measure of the number of times race field information is used, and felt that as a proxy for numerical use, the fee was “hopeless”.

Aside from legal argument, though, the question has to be what is most effective in taking racing into the future, in a world with multiple product. In other words, what charge maximises take across the global marketplace, taking into account consumer behaviour, and a desire not to create something that then alters consumer behaviour in order to facilitate avoidance.

There is only one sort of tax which doesn't incentivise the person paying the tax to change their behaviour in order to reduce exposure to whatever it is that is being taxed, and that is a tax on profit. Taxing anything that has a variable need just encourages people to reduce the need for it (look at the old window tax), but reducing your profit to pay less tax is clearly cutting off your nose to spite your face. A tax on turnover clearly incentivises you to reduce your turnover, particularly given that you can do so without reducing your profitability. You just raise your margin. a 2% margin on turnover of £1000 clearly generates the identical profit to a 4% margin on £500.

So, a turnover tax, by definition, incentivises the operator to keep prices high, in order to keep turnover low. Keeping prices high means being less competitive; being less competitive means reducing innovation; reducing innovation means opening a gap between what punters want in their regulated market and what they are being offered; and opening up a gap creates demand for a black market.

The thing is, even people who argue what a 'great opportunity' this is, seem to recognise that. Take that Racenet article again. it says: "Turnover needs to be maximised, markets need to be competitive."

So, how do you maximise turnover by taxing it? And if you want racing to be competitive, why tax it in a way which encourages higher prices?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Not that it's my usual style to comment on corporate stories, but the news which has been published on various blogs, and formally announced on the official website, of a deal which puts Betfair onto Samsung televisions, is one of the more exciting releases I have seen in a long time, and in my view a huge personal success for the amiable and extremely capable head of Betfair TV, Simon Miller.

The wider picture here, though - following on so soon after the equally exciting launch of Betfair's iPhone application, which was downloaded 20,000 times in the first month - is the same as I was making when I was interviewed the other day as part of the BBC's coverage from the Aegon Championships at Queen's. Asked by John Inverdale what should be done about people betting on laptops court-side, I commented that there is little point in dealing with any 'issues' perceived to be associated with betting by trying to hold back technology. It's far better to address them through transparency and co-operation.

On that track, I recently spent some time with a number of sporting Chief Executives, who gave up some of their time to come and understand how betting is tracked today. I think it is fair to say that they were wide-eyed about what they described as 'almost anti-terrorist style' means of tracking any problematic betting. We agreed that the biggest deterrent to malpractice is getting the message out there that the proliferation in online betting has tipped the risk/reward ratio dramatically in favour of risk, by virtue of the trackability, and not - as is commonly perceived - in favour of reward.

The more sports leaders who understand that, the better for all of us, because the message will be easily communicated to the players and officials (who are the only people who can genuinely impact the outcome of a sporting contest). I'm very encouraged that organisations like the Professional Players' Federation and the British Athletes' Commission are so willing to engage in the subject. It's good news for everyone - except the would-be corruptors.

Name and logo

I did the presentation to our new starters the other day, in which invariably I get myself lost in stories of the olden days rather than sticking to the corporate script, and I was reminded, as I mused, of the very first 'focus group' that we had as we got Betfair up-and-running.

'Focus group' was something of a misnomer, given the people who were involved: our group of six comprised mainly old university footie mates of mine, not known for focusing on an awful lot other than the bottom of a beer glass. But they fitted the bill (i.e. they had nothing better to do), and we sat them in a room to ask them questions about how people might react to the proposition we were about to launch. We started by presenting the six of them with a single piece of paper which we placed in the middle of the rectangular table around which they were sitting.

All it had on it was our proposed name and logo. We wanted to know what came to mind.

The first two comments that were made as the piece of paper was put down will stay in the memory forever, I think.

"Well that's pretty stupid," said one. "Betting isn't fair, is it?"

There was a pause.

"Oh - but look" piped up a second. "They recognise that. Because there's a great big arrow going in, and then just a tiny little arrow coming back out..."


It takes an Aussie to say, of gambling, that "It's a bit like sex: everyone thinks they're good at it but not many people are."

But that isn't actually the reason I was drawn to Max Presnell's article in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald.

Rather, I thought it interesting for two things.

First, because, at last, someone, somewhere in the world, who can be considered part of racing's older guard has recognised that the biggest threat to racing is from competitive product.

And second, because of the line that says, "the Australian Productivity Commission estimates Australians gamble some $800million on online poker and casino".

If anyone wants proof that prohibition is a waste of time, this is it. It is clearly, explicitly, 100% illegal to gamble online on poker and casino products in Australia. The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 makes all online gambling illegal unless it is covered by Section 8A, which explicitly allows wagering on sports and horseracing.

So that $800million is money gambled and not taxed, and lost to Australia.

Someone explain to me how that makes sense.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

And on it rises

I note that, according to a research piece put out by Barclays today, " estimates that there are 20,000 websites operating in France that offer gambling."

So, from 5,000, to 15,000, to 20,000, in the space of months.

Good legislation, that.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The Oaks

So here we are, then - back to where it all started. Our actual anniversary may be 9th June, but philosophically, it will always be Oaks Day, because Oaks Day 2000 it was, and the Oaks was our first ever market. Love Divine won it. From memory, I think about £3,400 was matched.

I can well remember the thrill of the first few bets being matched - compounded, perhaps, by the technical difficulties we had had on the three occasions we had showed off the product in the days before launch. Two of those were launch parties, and rather public; the other was in the privacy of my parents' house in Datchet, to the Times' racing correspondent, Alan Lee.

I forget now why it was that I had called Alan. I suspect it would have been that he had formerly been the Times' cricket correspondent, and the previous year I had got myself a gig working in the Press Office for the Cricket World Cup, based at Lord's. I think - although neither of us can remember for sure - that we must have met there; and that, just under a year on, with us both having moved jobs, his was the only name in the racing press that resonated. Whatever the reason, and however cold the call, Alan responded with great interest. He'd be fascinated to see it, he told me. A date was set. Bert and I rocked up to my folks' place, which was a happy half-way house between our Putney office and Alan's Cheltenham home.

We talked him through the product. Bert, in his customary shorts, wilder-haired than he is today (there was a touch more of it then), extolling the virtues of his baby - this exceptional product that had gone from drawing board to launch pad over a period of many months. Alan was wide-eyed at the explanation. Come on then, let's see the real thing. Here it is! Look! Oh no... Sorry... The system's crashed...

The first of our launch parties was in Covent Garden, targeted at (I think) 24 people who we had chanced upon through friends and friends-of-friends as potential clients or potential investors. We went to a small bar which was bizarrely lit in blue, on Shelton Street, I think it was. I can't remember if there were really fish tanks there or whether my memory has now just imagined them, but the whole place had a feel of being under water. It was an unfortunate metaphor, given that before we had even started, we were.

There they were, the High Rollers (as we thought of them then); gathered together in hushed expectation, enticed by news of a ground-breaking product which they were going to be first in the outside world to see. Twenty-four computers set up around the room; state-of-the-art not-quite-flat screens (it was ten years ago); the eerie blue light adding just a frisson of excitement. "Gentlemen, thanks for coming. What you're about to see is going to change the world of gambling. Err... Sorry. The system's crashed."

A day later, we were at the Sports Cafe on Haymarket, showing a rather larger crowd. Anyone we knew from the City was asked along to an evening which we had decided would best generate interest if we staged a mock demonstration outside.

Many people remember our mock funeral which made the front page of the business section of the Sunday Times, when we paraded a coffin around Finsbury Circus and its environs proclaiming, "the bookie is dead - make your own market!". Far fewer remember the demo we arranged outside the Sports Cafe, where a rag-tag-and-bobtail group of actors donned mackintoshes and flat caps, and held up placards saying "stop the launch".

The irony was two-fold: first, some who were invited that night never made it, turning away as they approached and telling us later that there seemed to be some kind of a demonstration going on, and they thought they should keep clear. The second, of course, is all too obvious: at the time, the idea of traditional bookies protesting our existence was all tongue-in-cheek. Little did we realise just how much the bookmaking industry would genuinely line up against us in the years ahead in protest at how competitive we were.

The Sports Cafe launch was the 'official' launch, but it wasn't a whole lot more successful than the private one. Most of my former brokers who came along were baffled by what I'd left JPMorgan for: despite their deep understanding of markets, they didn't see what the demand would be for our product, and told me it would never be more popular than the spreads that they loved (Sprouty, Stokesy - hang your heads in shame!). The system that night was up and down - more up than down admittedly, but it still felt hairy. We were heading towards D-Day with some trepidation.

But D-Day went like a dream. Alan wrote a back-page piece for the Times heralding the start of a new dawn which, he advised in words that went entirely unheeded, people in racing would be wise to notice. The market was posted, and prices went up, in fivers and tenners. We all stood around the computer screen as they appeared and disappeared, placed and matched with slightly more of a delay than they are today. By the time Love Divine was in the winner's enclosure, we were all jumping around in glee. Betfair was up and running!

Funny to think, really.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Charging towards turnover

I see that owners and breeders in Victoria, Australia are the latest group in racing to come out against a gross profits tax and advocate a turnover charge.

I find it bewildering, to be honest. It's like voting for an ancient by-gone age in the naive belief that you can go back to a world that was, instead of dealing with the world that is.

How does anyone believe that the solution to a funding crisis is to stifle innovation and competition? I could see it if racing were the only game in town, but it isn't: it has to compete with lots of other gambling product.

Voting for turnover on the basis that it brings a short-term boom, without recognising that it encourages people to bet offshore, that it keeps domestic prices high, that it makes it impossible to compete on price and that it therefore makes it less likely that new market entrants will keep up with consumer tastes is a very short-term approach.

It's like being a recording artist and insisting that you want to keep selling vinyls, on the grounds that vinyls sell for a higher price and all your longest-standing fans still have turntables. Your old fans keep buying your songs, and you might well sell them records at higher prices for a bit. But by the time you turn to the people who are using MP3 players, you realise that the people who might have become your fan-base are listening to someone else.

Still, I guess by then, both you and your old fan-base are dead.

Premium Charge and the levy

I had an interesting lunch yesterday with a group of racecourse Chief Executives, talking about the racing industry, the levy, and specifically Betfair's impact (as they saw it) on both.

They were all extremely focussed on the Premium Charge, and argued vociferously as follows: if Betfair has identified people who consistently make money, and then charges them a premium, why should racing not be able to charge those people money as well, on the basis that they are profiting from racing.

My first reaction was mild amusement that racing should believe that our Premium Charge customers should necessarily be racing customers. There's a naive belief which persists that betting means racing, when racing is an increasingly small proportion of the betting industry's business.

But that aside, the logic of their argument just doesn't stand up.

Racing derives money from betting operators, and as it derives a percentage of their profits, it should be comfortable that operators and racing are incentivised in the same way. If we maximise our profits, then their take is maximised in turn.

Now, their argument is that if we charge a consistent winner 20%, then they only get 10% of that 20%. But that argument is seriously flawed.

Like all operators, Betfair is out there trying to maximise profit, and balancing that desire with ensuring that its customers get value. Unless it achieves that balancing act, then its profit by definition cannot be maximised, because it has no customers to make a profit from.

Part of Betfair's USP is that it welcomes people who win. This is an important selling point, as was seen by the outcry that its introduction of a Premium Charge created. As was said at the time, only 0.6% of its customers pay the premium charge, but around 50% of its customers were seriously up in arms about it. The dream of winning is very important, as was made clear by the many, many customers who claimed (falsely, in my view) that the Premium Charge took away that dream.

Allowing customers to win is therefore important to the success of the business, but it cannot be done in a way which costs the business money. Successful punters (who, incidentally, are not necessarily the same group of people year in, year out) have to win from someone, which means that Betfair needs to provide a never-ending stream of customers who contribute to the liquidity of the pool.

So, Betfair's business model is that it makes sure that it markets to a fast-growing customer base, and keeps the money circulating in the system. The longer the money stays in the system, the more often Betfair clips the ticket. Betfair's aim is therefore to keep the money in the system for as long as possible.

One of those present said to me (repeatedly) that what we ought to do is just stop people winning. Now there's a good business model: why doesn't racing tell all its punters that they're not allowed to win, and if they do, then they'll be banned. I can see that working well for the future of the industry.

But that aside, let's return to the argument. Betfair's business model is to maximise money not by closing down people who make money from it, but by spending money to ensure that it keeps clipping the ticket all the time. In other words, it has a business model, like any other business model, based on costs of doing business, and revenues gained from what those costs provide. The fact that it is using revenues to pay the costs is not a matter of concern to racing because racing gets paid on the GROSS revenues, not on the net revenues. So the fact that Betfair chooses a business model where, having paid some of its gross revenues in tax, it then spends some more of those gross revenues to cover costs which then in turn generate revenues, is not relevant. By that stage, it becomes a matter for Betfair's Executive, and Betfair's shareholders. Racing should be delighted that Betfair is out there maximising its revenues.

So, for racing then to dip into a part of Betfair's business model and say 'oh - we'll have a bit of that too' is absurd. Racing has decided that its funding model is to take a percentage of the profits of operators. Not customers, but operators. So it is simply not racing's position then to play with individual parts of Betfair's business model and say that it likes this bit but doesn't like that bit. Either it takes the model and a percentage of the revenues that are generated, or it doesn't.

Now, racing is of course perfectly at liberty to change its own funding model in turn. It could absolutely say, "we no longer want to get a percentage of the profits of operators. We want to get a percentage of the profits of all those who benefit from racing over a given amount of money in a financial year'. But if it is going to do that, it has to do it consistently across the board.

For example, take a successful punter who also wins the Scoop 6. Maybe he wins it more than once, as a very savvy, Premium-Charge-paying punter.

If he were to win the Scoop 6 betting through Betfair, and is paying the Premium Charge, should his Scoop 6 winnings be included in the money he makes from racing, and therefore then be included in the event that racing secures money from non-operators who make money on racing? If so, should they also be included if he wins the Scoop 6 betting through the Tote, rather than on Betfair's Tote product?

The fact is that, like Paddy Veitch (who was written about at length in the FT this weekend), racing isn't interested in that kind of even approach. If they were, I'd have some sympathy with them. They could, in my view, absolutely change the target of who they want to get money from, providing they do so on a consistent basis.

But for the life of me, I cannot see how anyone thinks it is equitable to dive into one operator's business model, picking and choosing those aspects of it that suit, when it has made a decision to charge operators on their profits.

Evening Standard

I'm not sure which bit of yesterday's 'Big Interview' with Nic Coward made me laugh most.

First it was the way it was dubbed 'exclusive', as if to give the impression that other papers had been fighting to get it.

Second, I suspect, was the line that the "even more pressing problem, Coward believes, is the failure to address the issue of foreign races shown in betting shops or on their offshore operations. Coward estimates such online offshore operations set up by Betfair to be in the region of £10m-£15m."

Come again? Is that a journalistic misunderstanding, or is Betfair - onshore - responsible for the companies that are offshore? In a world where Betfair is to blame for everything, you can never be quite sure. I'm told Nic once started a meeting he was chairing with the comment, "you have to remember, these people are pure evil." So anything's possible.

And third, this delightful non-sequitur:

"Lord Triesman was secretly taped making claims — subsequently investigated and denied by FIFA — that Spanish officials were attempting to bribe officials and fix the results of matches at this summer's World Cup. “Where there is betting on any sport including racing there is an ever present, very severe threat of corruption,” Coward tells me."

Does Nic genuinely think that Triesman was implying that the bribes were for betting purposes, or is that, too, journalistic misuderstanding of the case that he was putting?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Paddy Power's turnover tax call

Interesting to see today that Paddy Power have called for a 1% turnover tax on Irish racing from Irish betting customers as a solution to that country's funding problems.

While it is clear that their motivation is to ensure that all those who profit in some way from Irish racing get caught by the tax, rather than just betting operators, it seems curious to me that any competitive operator should call for a turnover tax, which by definition builds in an incentive to keep turnover low and therefore margin high. Having high margin built into the domestic system is a recipe for stifling innovation and creating (or fuelling) a black market.

It was precisely to create innovation and stifle the black market that bookmakers in the UK advocated the change to a gross profits tax and away from a turnover tax in 2001. And it is precisely for that reason that progressive governments have since moved towards GPT, and protective monopoly ones have opted to try to ingrain turnover, since then.

As Paddy Power themselves are clearly in the innovative and progressive box, not to mention extremely competitive, it seems a curious move. Perhaps there is politics behind it that I don't understand.


Congratulations to a former university contemporary of mine, Sarah Winckless, on today being named the first Chair of the new BOA Athletes' Commission. I'm delighted for her.

It's hard to hear of her appointment, though, without wondering whether the existence of the BOA AC will cause further confusion in the world of British sport. There is, after all, already a British Athletes' Commission.

I understand from the Chief Executive of the BAC, Pete Gardner, that the BAC will continue to represent British sportsmen who take part in the Olympic sports, while the BOA AC is an advisory group for the British Olympic Association, comprising Olympic athletes; and I have seen a very good document advising of the difference in jurisdiction between the two.

Maybe I'm the dunce, having once turned up to the offices of UK Sport for a meeting with Sport England.

But you have to wonder how many bodies there are in sport in our country, and how many people who don't have the privilege of being able to ask a million questions about who has responsibility for what, just give up the ghost on the basis that it's all too hard to work out who decides what, when.