Poland's Leading Bookmaker Sues Polish Football Association

November 17, 2022
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Poland’s largest bookmaker STS has filed a lawsuit against the Polish Football Association (PZPN), seeking financial compensation for the losses the company claims it incurred as a result of the first coronavirus lockdown of 2020.

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Poland’s largest bookmaker STS has filed a lawsuit against the Polish Football Association (PZPN), seeking financial compensation for the losses the company claims it incurred as a result of the first coronavirus lockdown of 2020.

The bookmaker, which serves as the official sponsor of Poland’s national football team, demands the PZPN pays it close to PLN230,600 (€49,110) to compensate for losses generated by the association’s decision to cancel a number of football matches during the first quarter of 2020.

The lawsuit was filed with the District Court of Warsaw, according to the information obtained by local sports daily Przegląd Sportowy.

STS’ legal representatives claim that the association should reimburse the funds it was paid by the bookmaker for that period after several matches were cancelled, and later rescheduled.

The PZPN rejects these claims and its lawyers argue that, based on the contract signed by the two entities, neither PZPN, nor Ekstraklasa, the top tier of Poland’s professional football league, are required to consult any changes to their match schedules with STS. The association also says that the matches were played but, due to the pandemic, at a later date.

“The case has been registered with the 24th Civil Law Department [of the district court], and the first trial is to take place on 20 January 2023,” according to the court’s press department.

At the same time, unofficial information sourced from the PZPN and STS suggests that both entities are in talks over settling the issue outside the courtroom.

There are ongoing disputes between Polish gambling industry association PIGBRiB and football authorities, with the trade group having lobbied to modify the provisions of Poland’s gambling law under which industry players are required to pay so-called match score fees to the PZPN and Ekstraklasa.

PIGBRiB argues that the fees are excessive and unjustified. Shortly after the first coronavirus lockdown began, the association requested that both the league and football association cancel the fees until football matches could be restarted.

Under the country’s gambling law, registered bookmakers are required to pay the PZPN and Ekstraklasa a fee of around 0.5 percent of their gross or net revenues, depending on the specific agreement each bookmaker signed with the two entities. The law’s Article 31 (para 2) states that bookmakers must secure the approval of national sports associations to use their scores.

The issue is currently being investigated by Poland’s competition watchdog UOKiK and the probe’s final outcome will decide whether the Ministry of Finance will amend the regulations.

STS says that, in addition to its online operations, the company operates a network of more than 400 shops across the country. Brick-and-mortar represent 15 percent of the group’s revenues, while online betting is responsible for some of the remaining 85 percent, according to data released by STS. The bookmaker is operated by a workforce of more than 1,500 persons, and, in addition to its domestic market, it is active in the UK and Estonia.

The bookmaker estimates it holds about 46 percent of the country’s legal bookmaking market. In the first nine months of 2022, the company’s customers placed a total of PLN3.3bn (€703m) worth of bets, it said.

STS has cooperated with the PZPN since 2014. Under the bookmaker’s current deal with the association, STS is to serve as the official sponsor of Poland’s national football team until the end of 2022.

Poland is set to feature in the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar and has been drawn in a group against Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Argentina.

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