William Hill invests £1 million in England's football future
29 May 2012
FA betting partner William Hill plc launched the "Back Your Pride and Joy" campaign on the eve of England’s pre-Euro 2012 friendly with Norway and they plan to hand out 200,000 £5 bet certificates to families with sporting kids. Each certificate is potentially worth £5,000 as the free bet is being given at odds of 1,000-1.
William Hill is investing £1 million in the future of the England football teams by allowing punters to back their young cubs to grow into lions or lionesses. Entitled "Back your Pride and Joy," customers will get a free £5 bet certificate at odds of 1,000/1 if their "pride and joy" plays for the England men’s or women’s senior team. William Hill will be offering maximum of £1 million worth of stakes in what is bound to be a very popular promotion, so punters need to get in there quick to back their "pride and joy."
To qualify, customers simply need to go in shop or online, have a £10 bet on any football market and then visit www.williamhill.com/playforengland to customize their own £5 free bet certificate.
Former England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, 31, and his father, Eddie, 59, were at the launch as the only pair ever to pull off the remarkable gamble – though when Eddie struck his £100 wager when Chris was just 12 the odds William Hill offered then were just 100-1. Eddie, of Barwell, Leics, was a crane driver in a factory when he placed the bet and was often in straightened circumstances as he scrabbled round for petrol money, cash for boots, gloves and kit as he took his young son round weekend matches.
Eddie, who owes a massive debt of gratitude to his long-suffering wife, Marie, 53, who encouraged Chris and him every step of the way, said: "Placing the bet back in those days wasn’t as easy as people might have thought it would be – we had to send off a letter and it was confirmed in writing and accepted by William Hill.
"I only wish they had given me a 1,000-1 – this is a fantastic opportunity for families with talented offspring. It was never about the money for me once Chris had made the grade – though if I’d had more I’d have put more on back when he was a youngster as I could see his ability shining through.
"But it’s not about the parents – it’s all about the children. They have got to want to do it themselves.
"They have to want to play and enjoy playing – my advice to any youngster is the same that I gave to Chris: Just make sure you enjoy it.
"The be all and end all of it is that the child wants to do it – it’s no point being a pushy parent if your youngster doesn’t love the game and dedicate themselves to it.
"That has to come from within the individual and then they have to have the talent.
"So many people helped us along the way since he started as a schoolboy playing outfield at Barwell, then at Downes Sports before moving to Blaby and Whetstone Boys Club – where Peter Shilton had once been.
"His first manager, Jeff Hines at Barwell, was brilliant and then Mick Langhor at Downes Sports gave him a proper start in goal and Paul Danson and Mick Pearce gave him extra training and George Hayes – who played at Leicester with Gordon Banks – was very good.
"We owe our thanks to a lot of people, not forgetting his uncle Stuart Hedley, who stood on every touchline with us.
‘But when Chris made his debut for England against Greece at Old Trafford in 2006 – I was so proud I had forgotten the bet as it was so many years earlier – the 4-0 win in the friendly was the best result.
"Though it was a great feeling collecting the £10,000 from William Hill – though at odds of 1,000-1 it would have been £100,000."
Chris, who has just signed for Sheffield Wednesday after leaving Premiership Wigan, is now hoping an England comeback may be in the cards after ridding himself of the back injury that plagued his career for more than a decade. Chris, who started out at Coventry City before being signed by Liverpool for £6 million in 2001 and leaving there for Wigan in 2006, said: "I am so looking forward to the new season. I am injury free and think the best of my career is still ahead of me.
"I am raring to go. I know how much my dad supported me as a youngster, but never knew about the bet until much later in my career when I had already made it.
"My daughter Lucy is five now and when she was two I rang a bookie and asked what odds they would give me for her to be a future Wimbledon champion and they said 75-1 – I never struck the bet.
"But at a 1,000-1 it’s a great opportunity for a family to get a small fortune for free - I have my certificate for Lucy to play for the England senior women's side."
William Hill spokesman Tony Kenny said: "Chris and Eddie are living proof that bets like this come off, but we are keen to see future England talent nurtured. It is a novelty bet with a serious side and that is that we should all be backing England going forward in the future.
"Our campaign is entitled ‘Back your Pride and Joy,’ customers will get a free £5 bet at odds of 1000/1 if their ‘pride and joy’ plays for the England men’s or women’s senior team.
"Hills will be offering £1 million worth of stakes in what is bound to be a very popular promotion, so punters need to get in there quick to back their ‘pride and joy.’"