With UEFA EURO 2024 fast approaching, we spoke exclusively with Andy Wright, Sportsbook and Trading expert and former Head of Trading at some of the most influential iGaming companies such as Sky Betting & Gaming, KingMakers, and Fanatics about what it takes to deliver a competitive sportsbook during such a major event. In our interview, Andy shares more about his impressive 18-year long iGaming background, challenges sportsbooks will face during this extremely busy period, and how the industry has changed since he first joined in 2006.

Andy Wright (bottom left), joins us to discuss preparing for The Euros 2024 from a sportsbook perspective

Can you tell me more about your iGaming background?

Yes, how long have you got?!

I first got into the industry in 2006. I worked in the Financial sector for a couple of years after university, but I didn’t really enjoy it. I loved sport, numbers, and betting and thought I need to get paid to do this. I joined Sporting Index as a ‘Junior Bet-taker’ and went on to have several different roles there.

In 2014, I was offered a job as Head of Football with Sky Bet based in Leeds. I looked after the trading side of things in this role and gradually took more responsibility for other aspects of the trading floor. Fast forward a few years and I had progressed to Trading Director. The main thing we all learned at Sky Bet was to have non-stop focus on the customer experience. That created a culture where most of us were very broad in our thinking. For example, ‘I’m not a marketeer but I’ve been around enough marketers over the years where I can think that way’ and similarly marketing teams would pop up with product or trading ideas which was excellent, everyone would be feeding in to make the best customer experience possible.

After 7 great years at Sky Bet, it was time to step away in 2021. A few former colleagues were working at KingMakers, an African facing Sportsbook. I went there which was a fascinating challenge; different countries, different dynamics, and a different customer base. After being at KingMakers for a short while, an opportunity at Fanatics in the US arose, which was too good to turn down. During my time at Fanatics, I built the trading team and helped to get the sportsbook up and running in 21 states. However, it got to the point where I was living in the UK whilst trying to run a US sportsbook, and the working hours became unmanageable. So, I decided to leave Fanatics a couple of months ago and now I am currently exploring opportunities within the UK market.

Can you discuss how to deliver a competitive sportsbook and engage customers during huge sporting events such as the Euros?

It’s essential that you begin your planning months in advance. If you haven’t began planning for the Euros around Christmas, then you’re running out of time. The reason for starting so early goes back to my point about collaboration internally; you need to know what you’re trying to achieve from your campaign and all departments must be feeding in and understanding the ‘why’. We’ve done lots of big events over the years whether it be football tournaments or racing festivals, so you must go and review those previous events and establish what you were trying to do then. Were you trying to acquire or retain customers? What mistakes were made and how do you learn from them? Next, you’re thinking about what customers want.

If you look back to the Euros in 2008 for example, there were no bet builders. The customers wanted the core markets and therefore may have placed a bet on first goal scorer for example. Now, everyone wants bet builders. They want to bet small to win big, so it’s all about how you create a proposition around that product. It’s forever thinking about what customers want, how the market has changed, what’s happened in the Premier League betting over the last 9 months that potentially does or doesn’t carry through into the Euros; lots of emphasis on learning and what the customers want. Once you’ve done that, you can then determine the narrative; what are the stories we want to tell through this tournament, what is our tone of voice, what are we here for. Customers have lots of choice; the UK is a very crowded marketplace and it’s easier than ever to have 6+ betting apps open at once, therefore it’s imperative to know what you’re trying to achieve. This allows the teams internally to ensure everything is aligned. Over the years, we have seen brands who have an odds boost on one thing whereas on other media platforms they will be discussing something else which feels very disjointed. It’s similar to what I said about Sky Bet’s strategy; work out the narrative of the tournament and then think about how to attract and retain customers.

In the timeframe between the Champions League finishing and the start of the Euros, there is a couple of weeks of friendlies where everyone is getting excited. Customers are beginning placing their bets on who’s going to win the tournament and who the top goal scorer will be. If you attract customers in that time, they are more likely to stick with you for the rest of the tournament because they’ve placed that pre-tournament bet. So again, you must analyse previous events and evaluate a strategy to discover how to encourage customers that bet now on ‘Harry Kane top scorer’ for example, in hopes they will come back. Overall, I’d say ensure your planning is done nice and early, be committed to what the narrative is and what you are trying to achieve and then ensure all teams go and execute on that.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing sportsbooks/operators in the lead up to the Euros 2024?

From an operational perspective, I would advise to plan for all eventualities. Things go wrong all the time. That will happen and it’s okay, but you must be ready for it. Think through what could happen. For example, England could get knocked out in the group stage, then what will you do as you might have committed a lot of marketing spend for the quarter finals onwards. Without your home country, the appetite from customers is going to dry up, so what’s your plan B if England go out? What’s your backup if a game gets called off due to adverse weather? What if you offered a Harry Kane price boost and he goes off injured in the first 5 minutes of a game? All these things you can plan for to an extent, and that’s super important when it comes to delivering a competitive sportsbook during the Euros.

How have things changed in the trading/sportsbook sector since you first entered the iGaming industry?

A lot has changed since I joined the industry in 2006! One of the biggest changes being the shift from retail to online. Everyone now spends so much time on their phones and essentially has a sportsbook in their pocket which makes it a completely different beast. As a result, the size and number of customers has grown astronomically in the past 20 years. Similarly, technology has progressed and helped with all this stuff. Looking back to when I started out, a lot of it was pen and paper and typing raw data into an excel spreadsheet every Sunday morning. That’s obviously now changed to a world where things are much more automated which is fantastic as it gives people more time to think and dream up new ways of entertaining our customers.

What customers want has also massively changed. Showing my age here but I still remember when you couldn’t bet on singles and you had to pay tax on bets, which has all completely changed. The average customer now wants to bet £5 to win £500 on a bet builder type product. That’s much different looking back to when it was simply about who’s going to win the game, how many goals there will be, if both teams will score, what will the correct score be, and that was pretty much it for football. Whereas now if you visit any top tier sportsbook, there are thousands of opportunities to create tens of thousands of different bets, so I think that flexibility and being able to give the customers what they want when they want is the biggest change, and obviously the technology that’s came with that to support it.

What is your favourite part of the job?

This is going to sound really cliché, but it’s just brilliant to work around sport, betting, and numbers. I remember being in a pub in London just after Sky Bet launched ‘Request a Bet’ which was the beginning of bet builder in the UK. Two people on the table next to me were chatting about betting and one of them said “hey look at this amazing thing Sky Bet have just created, you can request whatever bets you want on this game”. It was amazing to hear two random people who were genuine customers be excited about our product and knowing we had made someone’s enjoyment of that football match even more exciting was fantastic.

The other part I enjoy most is seeing new people come into the industry and the excitement on their face when they realise they’re being paid to watch sport! Witnessing young people joining the industry as their first job who have since developed and grown over the years to become leaders in their own right has been brilliant. Thinking about 19–20-year-old young adults who were completing apprenticeships at Sky Bet that are now late 20’s and in senior roles is amazing.

To be honest, this industry has never really felt like work. Of course there’s hard times, there always is, but it’s never really felt like work when you’re chatting about who’s going to score first in the Euros next week!

Do you have any recommendations or tips for those considering a trading career within the iGaming industry?

Do it!

The top tip I would say is to work out what your edge is and determine the value you can bring. Whether that be the ability to really think like a customer or being an expert in League 2 English football. Whatever it may be, work out your competitive edge and ensure you’re not shy about bringing that forward and showing people. Speak to as many people as you can; LinkedIn is a great resource in addition to the many industry conferences out there. Go chat to people, everyone wants to see others succeed. Part of my real enjoyment over the last 20 years is seeing others come through. Speak to people, pick their brains, you’ve got to start somewhere. There’s plenty of trading floors out there who will employ part-time traders. Sky Bet employs many graduates from Leeds University as an example and I know lots of other companies have similar schemes with local universities and colleges. Get your foot in the door, find your niche and work hard, which goes without saying. It’s a privileged position, everyone wants to be in that field because working with sport and numbers is highly sought after. Think like your customer, cultivate your network, and don’t be afraid to use that network. Be an expert at something, really channel that home and keep getting better and growing every day.

Who are you backing in the Euros?

I get so carried away by England’s chances every time!

I was lucky (unlucky?!) enough to be at the England vs Italy final at Wembley back in 2021 when England lost the penalty shootout, and it still hurts! I’m not sure England’s defence is good enough this time round. Hopefully England give us a good run, but we’ll see.

France have obviously got a great squad and Portugal seem to be getting backed. Hopefully we’re set for a great tournament and I’m looking forward to seeing how all the sportsbooks approach the tournament.

We would like to extend a special thanks to Andy Wright for joining us in today’s BettingJobs News edition and for sharing valuable insights on delivering a competitive sportsbook during the Euros 2024.

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