Spot the ball

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Spot the ball is a traditional newspaper promotion, most recently revived by The New York Times interactive team, where the player has to guess the position of a ball which has been removed from a photograph of a ball sport, especially association football. The position of the ball must be deduced from the relative positions of the sportsmen shown in the photograph, the directions in which they are looking, etc.

The game was common in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s in newspaper promotions and weekly football pools competitions.[citation needed] Players would pay for a certain number of crosses on the picture, which was sent in by post to the promoter. Sometimes players could cover the picture with hundreds of crosses, and special rubber stamps were manufactured which made it possible to fill in the picture with regular arrangements of crosses.[citation needed]

Prizes are generally awarded to entries closest to that adjudged by a panel of experts (and not perhaps the actual position of the ball in the original), since this makes the competition theoretically a game of skill and it is not classed as a lottery, which would generally be illegal in the UK under the Gambling Act 2005. In general it is impossible to bet on past events so a panel would choose where they thought the ball would, or should be, so the bet is actually against their opinion. A similar Pools panel exists for Football pools competitions to decide the likely results for matches that are postponed or cancelled, so that a payout can be made in a timely manner.

A spot the ball competition may be classed as betting, a prize competition, or a lottery, depending on its form. If it is classed as a prize competition, the promoter does not need a betting operating licence to run it.[1]

The game can be played online to win prizes such as cars and electronics.[citation needed] Some clubs now run spot the ball competitions at their grounds to raise money for the club.[citation needed]

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