Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone tycoon Nigel Eccles kicks off sports app in UK for Premier league return

By Claire McNeilly

Northern Ireland tycoon Nigel Eccles is about to kick off his UK-based fantasy sports product in time for the start of the Premier League season.

The Cookstown-born entrepreneur has become one of the province's richest men thanks to the success of his company FanDuel, which now has six million customers playing its games in the United States.

FanDuel is an online fantasy sports game focused on American football, basketball, ice-hockey and baseball.

But now - as exclusively revealed by Eccles in the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year - the entrepreneur will finally be able to use his own app in his home country.

As he breaks into the British market, the Edinburgh-based 42-year-old has teamed up with sports data firm, Opta.

They will provide live performance statistics for the new game, which will be available online and on phone apps.

Eccles insisted the UK move represented "the future of fantasy football".

"The whole experience is faster and slicker, the player information is great, the live scoring experience is just really fast and exciting," he said.

The UK launch comes at a crucial time for FanDuel.

The company, which is co-founded by Eccles and has been valued at £1bn, suffered a setback when a number of US states argued its model is a form of gambling and therefore contravenes gaming laws in the country.

But recent rulings in its favour have put the company back on track.

The business had been banned from operating in New York state since March, but in June officials voted to reverse that decision.

FanDuel was developed by Eccles, who grew up on a Co Tyrone dairy farm, more than six years ago.

Players build up teams that can play head-to-head challenges, or compete in a league with up to 125,000 teams, for prizes or cash.

The company, based in Edinburgh and New York, is now valued at $1.3bn. Millions of people, mostly in North America, have registered to play and, last year alone, the company shelled out $1bn in winnings.

But only eight years ago, Eccles was staring at his first, failed, foray into business and wondering where the next pound was coming from.

Undeterred - and despite having a large mortgage and three young children to provide for - he and his wife Lesley put all their savings into developing their fledgling FanDuel idea.

As Eccles told the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year, he and Lesley took no salary for 18 months, driven only by their belief in the product and the fact that everything they had was invested in it.

Belfast Telegraph