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Sportech PLC
Public (LSESPO)
IndustryOnline gambling
PredecessorRodime PLC
Area served
Key people
Roger Withers, Non-Executive Chairman
Ian Penrose, CEO[1]
Revenue£71.8 million (2008)[2]
£16.8 million (2008)[2]
SubsidiariesLittlewoods Casino
Littlewoods Bingo
The New Football Pools

Sportech PLC is an online gambling and entertainment company headquartered in the United Kingdom. The company is traded on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol SPO.L;[3] the stock is a component of the FTSE All-Share Index and the FTSE SmallCap Index. The company, formerly known as Rodime PLC, was originally an electronics company specialising in hard disk drives based in Scotland. In 2000, the company changed its name to Sportech PLC, after acquiring Littlewoods Pools from The Littlewoods Organisation for £160 million.[4]


Sportech began as a small electronics company, Rodime PLC, based in Scotland in 1979. By 1986, it was listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company specialized in manufacturing hard disks, inventing the 3.5-inch hard drive in early 1985,[5] but soon became unprofitable due to delays in getting the product to market. By 1991, Rodime ceased manufacturing hard disks. By early 2000, Rodime was a shell company with a $34 million overdraft and four employees, primarily in the business of suing other hard drive vendors for patent infringements related to Rodime's 3.5-inch drive development work.[6] The company negotiated patent-licensing settlements with Seagate Technology,[6] Conner Peripherals,[7] and IBM.[8]

In 2000, businessman Trevor Hemmings masterminded a deal that merged Rodime with the much larger Littlewoods Pools business. Littlewoods had been hurt by the advent of the lottery.[4] After the acquisition, the company changed its name to Sportech PLC.

Sportech purchased Scientific Games Racing, a division of Scientific Games Corporation, on 5 October 2010.[9] Scientific Games Racing is one of three large bet-processing companies in the United States horse-racing industry, whose clients include major racetracks in California and New Jersey, as well as off-track betting companies in parts of New York state.[10]

Football pools[edit]

Littlewoods' football pools were founded in 1923 by John Moores. The Vernons pools were established in 1925, and Zetters in 1933.[11]

The National Lottery, which was introduced in 1994, offered higher jackpots. This led to the decrease in popularity of the football pools.[12] The number of football-pool players declined from a peak of 10 million in 1994 to 830,000 in 2006.[13] Subsequently, Vernons closed its doorstep collectors operation in February 1998,[14] but ran a partnered lottery-base game with National Lottery during the 1998/99 football season. This helped it resume its business operations thereafter.[citation needed]

In 2000, Littlewoods Pools was acquired by Rodime as part of a £161 million deal Littlewoods Gaming. Rechristened Sportech, the company's Littlewoods brand bought Zetters, a football pool firm with 60,000 customers, in 2002 for £1.35 million.[15] It bought Vernons from Ladbrokes in 2007.[14] The Littlewoods, Vernons, and Zetters pools were merged into one new brand, "The New Football Pools", in August 2008.[16]

In March 2017 Sportech announced that it has entered a ‘conditional agreement’ to sell its Football Pools division for £83 million to ‘FP Acquisitions Limited’ a newly created company controlled by the funds of London private equity firm OpCapita.[17]


In 2001, Sportech was one of three firms worldwide to win gambling licenses from the Isle of Man to run online casinos in that nation. Leveraging the Littlewoods brand name, it launched[18][19]

Towards the end of 2003, Sportech decided to relocate its gaming operations from the Isle of Man to the Netherlands Antilles in order to broaden the range of games it currently offers. The terms of the Isle of Man were restrictive, with operators unable to advertise their services in jurisdictions that do not yet have legalised online gaming. The Isle of Man would force the company to undergo a recertification process in order to upgrade its software, and customers were limited as to how they could withdraw money from their accounts. Seeing a successful launch of the Littlewoods Casino product, the company wanted to move on and include Littlewoods Poker and an integrated jackpot product in their offering. Littlewoods Poker was launched in 2003.[20]


In partnership with St Minver, a gaming-software solutions provider, Sportech launched Littlewoods Bingo, an online bingo game. St Minver hosts the game using its Gibraltar gaming license.[21]

Company today[edit]

In 2008, Sportech signed a strategic partnership with 888sport, replacing Cryptologic as the firm's software supplier.[22][23]

In their 2016 full year results Sportech announced profits before tax climbed to £13.8m, compared to £11.8m in 2015. In 2016 the company won a long-running battle with HMRC over a £97m VAT repayment on one its games. In March 2017 Sportech announced it would return £20 million to shareholders by way of a Tender Offer to buy back shares.[17]


  1. ^ "People: Sportech PLC (ROD.L)". Reuters. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  2. ^ a b Jones, Rhys (2009-03-24). Davey, James, ed. "UPDATE 1-Sportech FY profit up 39 pct, confident outlook". Reuters. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  3. ^ "Sportech PLC (ROD.L)". Reuters. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  4. ^ a b Treanor, Jill (2000-06-28). "Littlewoods ends pools era". The Guardian. London: Guardian News and Media.
  5. ^ Cristensen, Clayton M. "Chapter One: How Can Great Firms Fail? Insights from the hard disk drive industry.". The Innovator's Dilemma: When new technologies cause great firms to fail. Harvard Business School Press. ISBN 0-87584-585-1. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  6. ^ a b Thackeray, Stephen (2000-01-28). "Seagate hands over $45m for FDD patent". The Register. London: Situation Publishing. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  7. ^ Treder, John (1999). "Birth of a Hard Drive: An Interview with John Treder". LogicSmith (Interview). Interviewed by Albert Dayes. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  8. ^ "IBM Agrees to Pay Rodime for Patent On 3½-Inch Drive". InfoWorld. Menlo Park, California: InfoWorld Publishing. 12 (46): 66. 1990-11-12. ISSN 0199-6649. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  9. ^ "Completion of the Acquisition of Scientific Games Racing and Board Changes" (Press release). Sportech PLC. 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  10. ^ Hegarty, Matt (2010-10-11). "British company completes Scientific Games deal". Daily Racing Form. New York: Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  11. ^ Munting, Roger (1996). An Economic and Social History of Gambling in Britain and the USA. Manchester, United Kingdom: Manchester University Press ND. p. 129. ISBN 9780719044496. OCLC 185769393.
  12. ^ Munting, An Economic and Social History of Gambling in Britain and the USA, p. 141
  13. ^ Office of Fair Trading (2007). Anticipated acquisition by Sportech plc of the Vernons football pools business from Ladbrokes plc (PDF) (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom.
  14. ^ a b Walsh, Dominic (2007-03-08). "Sportech takes £50m punt on Vernons". The Times. London: Times Newspapers. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  15. ^ Bain, Simon (2002-08-15). "Zetters pools purchase adds to Littlewoods operation". The Herald. Glasgow, Scotland: SMG Newspapers. p. 23. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  16. ^ McDonough, Tony (2009-01-28). "Liverpool firm rescues pools game from oblivion". Liverpool Daily Post. Liverpool, United Kingdom: Trinity Mirror North West & North Wales. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  17. ^ a b "Sportech to sell historic Football Pools business for £83m". Telegraph newspaper Business article.
  18. ^ Bain, Simon (2001-09-21). "Sportech bid for online casino turns up trumps". The Herald. Glasgow, Scotland: SMG Newspapers. p. 24. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  19. ^ Fletcher, Richard (2001-09-16). "Littlewoods rolls out Manx online casino". The Telegraph. Kent, United Kingdom: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  20. ^ "Final Blow for Online Casinos?". Isle of Man Today. Douglas, Isle of Man: Johnston Publishing. 2003-09-10. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  21. ^ "Littlewoods Bingo Software From St Minver",, Jan Balslev, 2006-02-01 |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  22. ^ "Sportech, 888 Holdings in strategic marketing partnership". London South East. Essex, United Kingdom: London South East. Thomson Financial. 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  23. ^ King, Leo (2008-08-06). "Sportech refreshes IT for multichannel betting". CIO. IDG. Retrieved 2010-11-11.