Fanduel founders set to take on English Premier League

FanDuel founders Lesley and Nigel Eccles. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

FanDuel founders Lesley and Nigel Eccles. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

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THEY are the husband and wife team who set up a billion-dollar sports game from their kitchen table in Edinburgh.

Seven years ago, Nigel and Lesley Eccles invented Fanduel, which allows members to play fantasy American sports such as baseball and basketball to win cash prizes.

Now the Eccles are aiming to become household names in their home country by setting up a new game based on the English Premier League.

Mr Eccles said Fanduel – which has its headquarters at Quartermile – would be operating in the UK by the new season in August, and planned to capitalise on the five million people who play fantasy sports in the UK. He said the firm may then look to move into European markets.

“The UK football market is a test, Europe would be the obvious next step, but we need to see how the UK performs first,” he said. “We’ve wanted to go international for some time and we’ll be launching in time for the new Premier League season.

“There are five million people that play fantasy sports in the UK, and there are even more who will be willing to play.”

In the UK, players will pay an entry fee of as little as £1 to scrap it out over the season, with 90 per cent of the fees going towards prizes and the remaining 10 per cent going to FanDuel.

Mr Eccles added that the approach in the UK won’t be “copy and paste” from the US as the British market plays fantasy sports differently.

The model has run into legal issues in the US, where some states claim it breaches gaming and gambling laws. Mr Eccles is confident the firm can emerge victorious from forthcoming battles – and despite the challenges, FanDuel’s turnover accelerated to £60 million last year.

He said: “The regulatory situation has improved over the last six months, more and more states like Indiana and Virginia are coming around to our view that it’s a game of skill, so we’re not worried about that.”

Valued at $1 billion, FanDuel is backed by the likes of investment giants Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Google Capital and NBC Sports Ventures.

Concerns were raised over its finances after it recently reported a £64.8m loss, but Mr Eccles said: “It’s not unusual for a company that’s growing fast to show a loss. We’re focused on growth and the board is happy with that.”

The Eccles – regular commuters between Edinburgh and New York – met in 1995 at St Andrews University.

Their Capital office employs more than 60 engineering, design, recruitment and marketing staff.

newsen@edinburghnews.com