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Should fan groups team up with bookmakers?

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Co-founder of Punjabi Wolves’ Pete Bassi talks about their new deal with online betting company FansBet, how they’ve used the revenue to subsidise away travel and the history of their fan group. What do you think about fan groups teaming up with bookies?

Six of us got together and thought ‘let’s make it official’, let’s have a presence within Wolves and have an avenue where we can talk to Wolves, the hierarchy of Wolves and they can listen to our ideas from a fan’s perspective. Because there wasn’t enough of that – it used to be that you watch a game, you go home. There was no interaction with the club as such.

Over the years, we’ve interacted with the groundsmen, the kit people, right up to CEOs and everyone in between as well. For how multi-cultural Wolverhampton is, it doesn’t reflect wholly in the stadium, in the crowd on a matchday. We wanted to get more Asians, more black, more ethnic-minority fans into Molineux.

They were a bit apprehensive, saying there’s trouble on matchdays, it’s not safe. We said you’re more than welcome to come with us, we’ll take you.

Fans have come to us said ‘my son, my daughter wants to go and watch Wolves but I’ve stopped them, but we’ve heard about you guys would you look after them?’ We’re more than happy to, we got them there and they had a brilliant time – and they’ve said ‘we don’t know why we were apprehensive’.

It’s about Wolves and growing the fanbase of Wolves. If we can get two or three people, who aren’t sure about Wolves, coming to a matchday, if we can get them over that barrier and then come on a regular basis, it’s job done.

When we setup we said we wanted to tap into grassroots football, we were frustrated that there weren’t more Asians playing football. We’ve got them in the terraces, in the crowds as supporters, but we haven’t got them on the pitch.

There’s no one idol they can go and follow. If we saw a good Asian player playing for Liverpool or Manchester United, we’d go and watch him – just to follow that player. That’s what we need, we need one or two players to come through and that will be a springboard.

We want to be the blue print for clubs all over the country to have Punjabi groups – Punjabi Rams, Punjabi Spurs – and why not?

FansBet recently came onboard. We looked at it, truthfully, we were a bit apprehensive because we thought there’s not one betting company that we know that gives money back.

They took onboard our ideas with what we wanted to get out of it. There’s a genuine relationship there that opened up straight away. We thought we’ll let this go and see how it pans out. So far, so good.

Our niche is away travel, we do it with a bit of panache and everyone wants to come on board. We always fill our availability of coaches straight away.

So straight away we thought this was the best way to give back to the fans – the fans that come with us season in, season out, they’re going to get first priority. So we’re going to heavily subsidise away travel.

It’s simple and effective for people who want to travel away, and if it’s subsidised and they don’t have to pay for it – all the better.

The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF.

Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this blog.

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