At its peak, 3 million people would play Spot the Ball each week, trying to estimate the exact centre of a football from a picture of a game in progress. With a £250,000 jackpot prize for anyone placing an 'X' in the correct place, it was one of the major competitions across the UK, but since the advent of the National Lottery player numbers have dropped sharply to around 14,000 a week.
Now, the competition is embroiled in controversy, as it has been revealed that the main prize hasn't been claimed for over ten years.
How the Story Broke
The issue came to light when a punter who has wagered £2.50 every week for 11 years confronted the organisers of the draw with the fact that he has spent an estimated £11,300 over the years, winning a single £10 prize and a couple of £2 prizes. Pete Cook, a retired newspaper editor and commercial manager for Tamworth FC was getting increasingly exasperated with his lack of success and decided to ask the organisers when the £250,000 prize was last claimed.
''I was absolutely gobsmacked to find out it was in 2004'' Mr Cook said, adding that ''Someone must be coining it in if there's been no big payout for all this time.''
Response From the Organisers
Spot the Ball organisers, Sportech, which is now owner of the Littlewoods group, have responded by saying that the lack of winners is simply a reflection of the drop in player numbers and that in the last 10 years over £16 million has been paid out to players who have been closest to the centre of the ball.
The company is also fighting a battle with the Inland Revenue, arguing that because Spot the Ball is a game of chance, not skill, it should be exempt from paying VAT.