Leicester City legend Gordon Banks on his Pools Panel role
Many footballers go into management or coaching when they retire, while some go into punditry. Gordon Banks, however, joined the Pools Panel and has been on it for three decades.
Set up 50 years ago last weekend, this panel of experts has determined the results of football matches included in the Football Pools weekly coupon that have not been played due to adverse weather.
And they were certainly busy last weekend with 18 postponed league matches requiring their judgement.
The original panel was made up of six men – three former England players in Tom Finney, Tommy Lawton and Ted Drake, ex-Scotland full-back George Young, World Cup referee Arthur Ellis and former Conservative MP John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon.
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These days, there are just three who meet every Saturday during the football season at a solicitor’s office in Liverpool – World Cup winners in former Leicester City goalkeeper Banks and ex-Liverpool striker Roger Hunt, and the former Blackpool midfielder Tony Green.
With millions of pounds potentially riding on their decision, Banks acknowledges the responsibility on their shoulders.
“We all appreciate that it is a big responsibility,” he said. “We do realise that we can make someone a lot of money and also take that money away. We know this and we accept it.
“It is taken very seriously – it is very secret, we deliberate behind a locked door and our families are not allowed to enter.”
They stay inside the room from 2pm and do not leave until the half-time whistle has blown in all the surviving matches, which is when they send through their final deliberations.
“We get given all the information – league standings, previous results, the sides’ previous meetings, goals for and against – everything,” said Banks.
“We have our own ideas but we will sit down and talk about it before making a decision.
“Sometimes we don’t agree but, once two of us are in agreement, the other one has to stand down.”
Despite potential disagreement, the three panellists have become great friends.
“I enjoy it, we have a laugh outside of doing it and we are very good friends,” said Banks. “We even go golfing in Spain together.”
Pools companies like Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters – now the combined Football Pools – started in 1923 but the panel was set up during the big freeze of 1962-63 in order to keep its competition running after the weather wiped out matches across the country for three weeks running.
The first panel met at the Connaught Rooms, in London, on January 26, 1963.
Even though Banks was a World Cup winner, the chance to gain a new source of income 30 years ago was a necessity.
“I played in a time when footballers were not paid much so I had to get a job,” said Banks. “I wasn’t working on Saturdays at the time, so I was happy to take it. I don’t earn a lot of money, but it keeps me ticking over.”
Banks still follows the fortunes of City, a club he made nearly 300 appearances for.
“Any player that has played for a club like Leicester likes to see how they are doing,” said Banks. “They have got themselves in a really good position to finish in the top two and, at worst, the play-offs.
“It would be great to see Leicester back in the Premier League.”
Gordon Banks was speaking at the launch of The Football Pools WAGs Challenge. Go head to head against The WAG Panel’s Premiership predictions every week at www.footballpools.com