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The Brussels gamble of a British pokerlegende

c7a55ee6de754c5b559c5fdeab29a556 - The Brussels gamble of a British pokerlegende

How gokmiljardair Tony Bloom has a voetbalimperium built into Union in Belgium

The Brussels gamble of a British pokerlegende

Since the Union in the hands of the British gokmiljardair Tony Bloom, revived the Brussels traditieclub. This week, playing Union even to a place in the final of the Cup of Belgium. Cool and calculated. Like Bloom himself, in a previous life, a global pokerlegende with the intriguing nickname of ‘The Lizard’.

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With a place in the semi-finals of the Cup of Belgium is allowed to the supporters of the Union this season, dreams of the glorious days from the past Virginie Lefour/belga

How gokmiljardair Tony Bloom has a voetbalimperium built into Union in Belgium

The Brussels gamble of a British pokerlegende

Since the Union in the hands of the British gokmiljardair Tony Bloom, revived the Brussels traditieclub. This week, playing Union even to a place in the final of the Cup of Belgium. Cool and calculated. Like Bloom himself, in a previous life, a global pokerlegende with the intriguing nickname of ‘The Lizard’.

Cup, thus of Belgium

Nico Tanghe

Brussels,Place your bets! These three words make the blood in the veins of Tony Bloom for more than 40 years flow faster. As a child, he was already fond of the ‘fruit machines’ in the kermisgoktenten of the English coastal city of Brighton, where he in 1970, was born and throughout his childhood.

His grandfather Harry was there at the time vice-president of the local football team and took the young Tony not only often to the football stadium, but also to the local gokwedstrijden with greyhounds: jachtwindhonden. It is there that Tony’s taste for the gambling caught up with, is to read in a portrait of Business Insider, based partly on the biography of Mike Atherton from 2006.

3 million prize money

On his fifteenth came to Bloom for the first time in contact with sports betting, after he made a fake identity card had been used to gain access to one of the local bookmakers, who were already ubiquitous were in England. There gambled Bloom, a wiskundeknobbel who successfully graduated from Manchester University, particularly at cricket and football matches. At that moment, yet without a real strategy. Already won the young Bloom when more bets than he lost, he said himself once in an interview with the local newspaper, The Argus.

‘Tony Bloom had a declaration to sign stating that he is not allowed to gambling on competitions in which Union is active’

Stijn Van Bever

Prof league

That changed after Bloom after short passages at Ernst & Young, and as aandelentrader – on his 23rd had decided to work in the professional poker circuit. There came he quickly to the top and he got because of his legendary coolness of the nickname ‘The Lizard’. According to Poker News won Bloom during his poker career with a total of 3 million dollars in prize money, which he today on place 15, the ranking of the most successful living star poker legends.

With that prize money started to Bloom already own gambling ring. First gently, for example by online bookmakerwebsites to build. In 2006, the highly successful but very discreet goksyndicaat ‘Starlizard’. Starlizard used complex statistical models to odds on football and other sporting events more distinct. To the example of beurstraders that a private hedge fund creation and large-scale mathematical algorithms and data to use to be successful in investing on the stock markets.

Asian gambling market

What is notable about this is that Starlizard mainly on the Asian gambling market. An atypical market, on a large scale is played with the so-called Asian Handicapis a form of betting in which one team a virtual head start to get compared to the other team. A system of sports betting that Bloom in her own words – ” as one of the first Westerners managed to penetrate after he himself seven months in Thailand and had stayed.

Tony Bloom wants the Union back to the top class pilots. Tim De Neve

How the business model of Starlizard exactly, no one knows. Officially collects and analyzes the betting company of Bloom not only on a large scale sportdata about football clubs and players, the place against payment also bets on behalf of wealthy private clients, every day for multiple millions on sports would be to gamble. Which makes it, de facto, can also be regarded as a private goksyndicaat.

A goksyndicaat which Bloom itself the largest customer. And which Bloom to say that is not a shareholder, and any management or administrative position. Which part of the profit of Starlizard he opstrijkt and how, remains a well-kept secret. It is clear that the 48-year-old Bloom are gokinvesteringen has never complained.

How big are personal ability, no one knows. As a professional poker player it is fitting, keeps Bloom his cards tight against your chest. In traditional rijkenlijstjes, such as that of the American magazine Forbes, you will not find it. Interviews are rare and mostly destined for the local press in Brighton. Also a interviewaanvraag of The Standard smote the English businessman two weeks ago, politely but resolutely.

Bloom bought last year the majority of the shares of Union and succeeded quickly in to the sleeping Brussels giant to awaken

But that Bloom financial particular remain powerful, is beyond dispute. All turned out that it was only really when he in 2009 in England his favourite football team Brighton Hove & Albion FC bought it. At that time, it was an anonymous mid-engine in a third class. Ten years and over 200 million pounds of investment later, his childhood love Brighton a middenmoter in the English Premier League, which plays in a brand new stadium. Partly thanks to the return of some old friends from ‘our’ Jupiler Pro League, such as ex-Bruggespelers José Izquierdo and Mathew Ryan and Anthony Knockaert (ex-Standard).

Brighton chase

A stunt that Bloom in Belgium, too, wants to repeat with the Brussels traditieclub Union. An ancient glory (the jupiler pro league (10) with a historic stadium in the capital of Europe and a well-known Brussels politician as honorary chairman: Charles Picqué. The flamboyant businessman in Bloom, who in his spare time also sometimes be a marathon runs and a generous supporter in the fight against MLS, saw immediate growth opportunities in. He bought in may last year, the most shares and managed rapidly in order to the dormant Brussels giant to awaken. From the wings, because Bloom himself performs with Union, say that no operational function.

In a few months time, got Union a new management, a new coach, a new oefencomplex and a new stadium. The large stadium in brussels was exchanged for the mythical parc duden, that of the municipality of Sint-Gillis is hired. It will be the supporters this season for the first time since a long time again dreaming of the glorious days of the past, when Union for world war II with eleven league titles for a long time the leading club in Belgium. With as a historical highlight in the period between 1933 and 1935, which the Union no less than 60 matches unbeaten, stayed in first class.

Following In the footsteps of Bloom, who is married to an Australian psychologist that he has two children by him, came almost a completely new team. Less than eleven of the twenty first team players have survived his coming. To the team to strengthen, founded the new management of the Union – which, in addition minderheidsinvesteerder and chairman Alex Muzio also members of the senior management of Starlizard sit – this summer, mainly on the foreign transfer market. With a scouting and acquisition strategy that is heavily reliant on data, and detailed player statistics, following the example of Brighton, which other football club in Bloom. Only one player was borrowed from the organisation from the Premier League, the South African midfielder, Percy Tau.

With success. Union may now even been dreaming of the highest class. For the Brussels club Bloom fight Wednesday not only with KV Mechelen for a place in the final of the Cup of Belgium. In 1B they do also still in the battle for promotion to the Jupiler Pro League. A series where reuzendoder Union with his current team is not in it would look out of place, as witnessed by the successful bekerparcours in which both rival Anderlecht as the match organiser KRC Genk was eliminated.


And that brings us seamlessly to the other side of this remarkable success story. It may happen that someone who is in the Wall Street Journal in 2010, was once described as ‘the godfather of the global sports betting itself is the owner of a professional football club in Belgium? The temptation to the score of certain games to influence not very big?

It was a question that the New York Times previously suggested that Chris Bonett, integriteitsverantwoordelijke of the European football association Uefa. But see there no hesitation. “I know that there is an ethical argument exists – would sportgokbedrijven owner may be of the sports clubs? – but we live in a free market. And Starlizard and other organisations for many years, major gokinformatie by regulators to try to matchfixing to detect.’ According to Bonett has Starlizard themselves no interest in match fixing because it is the predictability of the sport weakens. And so the value of their own gokquoteringen.

In England, where a much greater tolerance exists towards sports betting than it is with us, they are on the same wavelength. Not only are the majority of Premier League teams are directly sponsored by gambling companies. The gokwinsten in Great Britain, there are also totally tax-free, what’s in it for investors more attractive. It comes then as no surprise that in addition to Bloom yet another English gokmiljardair is the owner of a local football team: his archrival Matthew Benham of that in the second class, his childhood sweetheart Brentford bought.

A strict condition

Already holds the English football association FA both professional clubs, however, closely watched and there may be necessary action can be taken if there is evidence of suspicious practices. An example that also in Belgium was followed. In the license terms is in black and white mentioned that the prof league, shareholders who are attached to gambling’ under certain conditions can be eliminated as a director of the club.

“That’s right, confirms spokesman Stijn Van Bever of the prof league. ‘Union last year, his license is only given under one strict condition. Tony Bloom had to sign a statement in which black and white is that both he himself, as his gambling company aloof will keep track of all the bets in the competitions which the Union is active. Directly and indirectly. A promise each year by an independent auditing firm is controlled’, stresses Of Beaver. In short, a gokeigenaar may be a pro clubs have in our country, but if he or his gambling company is sin to matchfixing, it is ‘game over’. Even for a pokerlegende as ‘The Lizard’.

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