Revealed: how ‘fun’ social media accounts direct fans to betting giant

Revealed: how ‘fun’ social media accounts direct fans to betting giant

Popular social media accounts, including betting “tipsters” and a cult parody of the footballer James Milner, have been working as part of a marketing network directing users towards a major betting website.

One of the accounts, @AndyRobsonTips, gives the impression that it is run by an individual helping fans beat the bookies. Another, known as @BoringMilner, is widely known as a parody account that posts jokes about football for fun.

Neither of the accounts, part of a social network business boasting more than 1 million followers, appears to have given any public indication that they work together. But both are associated with, or owned by, Fanwave Digital, a business jointly owned by an investor in Scottish Championship team Raith Rovers.

Fanwave is geared towards boosting gambling industry revenues, in return for a fee, according to accounts filed at Companies House. It has worked with Boring James Milner, a social media account that is nothing to do with the veteran Brighton and former England midfielder but riffs on the idea of him irritating teammates with dull comments and observations.

The account does not disclose any ties to the bookmaking industry. But @boringmilner, which has more than 600,000 followers on X, formerly known as Twitter, has frequently reposted the popular betting tipster @andyrobsontips, including as recently as last week.

Andy Robson Tips has amassed more than 1 million followers across X, Instagram and Facebook by offering free betting suggestions that bettors can copy, in the hope of beating the bookies. The X account states: “I bet for entertainment,” while the Andy’s Bet Club website refers to having developed the account “while playing [football video game] Fifa in my boxers”.

But there is no person called Andy Robson behind the @andyrobsontips account, a source familiar with the business told the Guardian. Instead, the account is part of Fanwave Digital, a social media marketing business paid by Paddy Power Betfair, part of the £26bn gambling group Flutter, to post betting tips that link to the company’s website.

A Paddy Power shop in SunderlandView image in fullscreen

In previous years, Fanwave made commission by taking a cut of bettors’ losses. It is understood to have abandoned this model about three years ago and is paid by Paddy Power to route traffic exclusively to the bookmaker on a “cost per acquisition” basis. This means that Fanwave receives a fee for each person who opens an account with the firm.

The Andy Robson persona also has its own page, Andy’s Bet Club, on the Paddy Power website. A terms and conditions page on the website states that Andy’s Bet Club is a “trading name of Fanwave Digital”.

Founded in 2014, Fanwave says that it helps companies “grow their online presence and develop new and exciting products”. Accounts filed at Companies House suggest a narrower focus, saying the company makes money through “commission from betting tipster advice”.

Boring Milner appears to have reposted and then subsequently deleted dozens of tweets promoting Andy Robson Tips over several years, according to archived versions of X on the Wayback Machine, which logs old versions of web pages.

As of last week, Fanwave stated that it “works with” Boring Milner on its website but the terms of the relationship are not disclosed and Fanwave declined to answer questions about it. Emails to an address associated with Boring Milner went unanswered.

Earlier this week, any reference to Boring Milner disappeared from the Fanwave Digital website. The company did not answer questions about why and it is not known whether Boring Milner is still working with Fanwave.

In addition to Andy Robson Tips, Fanwave also owns another tipster account known as @badmanbetting. Several accounts aimed at fans of football clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United have also retweeted @andyrobstontips.

Neither of the betting tips accounts owned by Fanwave appear to have posted a betting history outlining their performance. They frequently post examples of occasions when their tips have won but examples of losing bets appear to be less frequently highlighted.

Fanwave Digital is co-owned by the 32-year-old Scottish entrepreneur Ruaridh Kilgour, who is a director and co-owner of the Raith Rovers.

The campaign group Gambling With Lives said the company’s business model illustrated the intricate ties between gambling and modern football. “Nowhere is safe from relentless gambling advertising, especially social media, which can be torturous for people harmed,” said the campaigner Nick Harvey. “Football and betting have become so enmeshed that even what seems like a harmless, fun account can be another way of making money for the gambling industry.”

Fanwave’s website says its accounts have 1.25 million followers on X and 710,000 on Instagram, and has generated more than 1m likes on Facebook, as well as more than 250,000 monthly website visits.

Accounts for the company do not disclose its revenues but indicate that it had net assets of more than £811,000 as of September 2022. Its shares are held on a 50:50 basis by Kilgour and his business partner Gordon Bennell, via separate wholly owned businesses.

Paddy Power betting slips at Tolka Park in Dublin.View image in fullscreen

Kilgour, a lifelong Raith Rovers fan, has said on X that he entered into ­discussions about investing in the club in February 2023. In April that year, as the investment was being negotiated, @andyrobsontips posted on X celebrating a winning bet on Raith to lose against Dundee.

None of the accounts associated with Fanwave Digital have posted any betting tips about Raith since he became a director. There is no suggestion that the tips breached any regulations governing football or betting.

Kilgour owns his stake in Fanwave via a company called Socialwave, whose accounts show that it had net assets of nearly £3.5m as of June 2022, including more than £883,000 of cash in the bank.

A spokesperson for Fanwave Digital said it no longer took a cut of its followers’ losses. “Together with our partners such as Paddy Power and Betfair, Fanwave was instrumental in the move away from the traditional ‘revenue share’ model,” a ­spokesperson said.

“Rightly, the industry is very highly scrutinised and we operate in strict accordance with all regulatory requirements. We recommend low stakes, with average bets being under £10, and we actively encourage responsible gambling at all times.

“While the person who created the Andy Robson pseudonym remains the key driver, the enormous growth of the brand means he is now supported by a talented team which helps meet the growing demand for Andy’s output.”

A Paddy Power spokesperson said: “As is common practice in many sectors, our Paddy Power and Betfair brands run affiliate programmes. We have an exclusive relationship with two of FanWave’s social media accounts and anyone deciding to place a bet is directed through to the brands’ regulated and licensed websites.”

Emails to an address associated with the Boring Milner X account went unanswered.