I agree with everything Katherine Fidler has written in her Tweet (https://twitter.com/KatEllenFidler/status/861565506872061952) concerning the Q&A with the ‘Racing Blogger’ (RB) in the Racing Post (RP).
My earlier comments on Twitter were not about doing a Q&A with RB, mine were about similar reasons to what Katherine points out in her Tweet, but relating to the ‘Racing Post’ and their attitude to ‘racing people’ who don’t agree with their balance of coverage on certain issues that affect racing and its image. Like the racing world needs more openness at times, so does the modern ‘punters friend’ (the RP).
As I know ‘Justice for Punters’ is very unlikely to get one millimetre of coverage in the Racing Post in the near future, despite the door being open to us at the Competition and Markets Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Gambling Commission, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the BBC and other main media outlets; I have, therefore written a Q&A using the exact same questions posed to RB.
I hope it is taken in the light-hearted way it is meant to be? However, it does have some very important messages (I think).
What advice would you give your ten-year-old self?
Believe you can do anything, especially if you can find somebody to pay Eton school fees for you (or an equivalent for girls). Many doors will then be wide open for you, even if you’re not very able or don’t have any common sense. Always remember that you could have been born in a very poor country, into an extremely poor family, when you’re moaning that others are at fault for what the UK is like. It’s a great country!
What’s the best bet you’ve ever had?
A 10pew accumulator that paid £180.00: I wasn’t 18. And my worst was an attempt to place a £10ew double three months ago where I was offered £0.00ew by one of the two biggest online bookmakers in the world. I was over 60.
If you could play any sport professionally, which would it be and why?
Rheumatic fever at 15 killed any chance I had of a professional sporting life. Nonsense, I wasn’t good enough, but it didn’t help. I would never change 40 years of playing amateur sport and my continued involvement in local sport. No question cricket would be my choice of sport; specifically walking out at Lords on the first day of a test match to open the batting against Australia. Then coming in for tea at 160no and sticking two fingers up at the MCC members in ridiculous clothing, drinking champagne, sat in the pavilion in front of the ‘Long Room’. How do you become a member at ‘the home of cricket’? Refer back to the first question and attending Eton, because that helps.
You’re more and more busy with racing – how do you find time to fit in the day job?
It’s becoming a struggle, because we get new cases of bookmaker injustices nearly every day, but luckily I only work part-time now, so I can give my time for free, without financial bias and take pride in the 250K we’ve secured for punters in the last 14 months that bookmakers were refusing to pay out for no good reason.
What do you think racing does best?
A great day out, albeit relatively expensive, compared to other countries. The atmosphere at weekend and festival meetings can be wonderful. One important note; courses desperately need to improve their refreshments; food, drink and prices.
What is the one thing you would change about racing to encourage more young people to get involved?
Stolen from the ‘blogger’: “We need to spread the word that racing is not just for old people or a boring sport; it’s a terrific day out that raises so many emotions and offers so much fun.” Younger people and for that matter everyone, need to see progress on non-triers and other initiatives that will help racing to be perceived as less ‘bent’ than is presently the case. You can only do this by taking action, and challenging trainers and jockeys when they make stupid statements in the media suggesting schooling horses in public is a necessity. You also need to stop people like me generating adverse publicity about betting on horses by recognised the truth about the present betting market and standing up against the off-course bookmakers who refuse to trade with anyone, however small their stakes, if they win. We need a minimum bet/liability law, like Australia asap. Betting on horses must be aspirational and too many customers now know it cannot be, due to the no-winner policy of 98% of off-course bookmakers.
What is your earliest racing memory?
I was about nine years old. At York races with my granddad. It was a great day out. He was a massive racing fan who taught me that studying form could mean I had a hobby that should not cost me too much, but also to never think you’ve got it ‘cracked’, so only gamble what you can afford to lose. He was a man of principle; goodness knows what he would think of major off-course bookmakers today.
Which country would you most like to go racing in that you haven’t yet?
Jumps or Flat?
No contest; jumps in every aspect; excitement, betting, value for money. You’ve time to go to the loo and still watch your horse win.
How long does your hairstyle take to do each day?
Five seconds. I still have hair, I’m very grateful for that.
What’s your biggest ambition in racing?
It used to be to own horses, but I’m a Yorkshireman and know a financial disaster when I see one. Again, it has to be aspirational, which it is, but that aspiration has to have some reality. With the present prize money levels, it’s like playing on a fixed odds betting terminal, the chances of you seeing any money back in comparison to your spend is nil+ 0.01%. I would also like to see punters being treated like any other consumer. We are a long way from that. A lot of people are going to lose their jobs in the betting industry over the next few years, primarily due to the internet; it kills companies and it is killing on-course betting as well. In addition, hard working people at the ‘coal-face’ of the industry are not being helped by the greedy, immoral practices their Directors are encouraging. The last few years are now proving they were a PR disaster waiting to happen.
And outside of racing?
For my family, friends and myself to remain healthy and have enough money to get by.
What is your worst habit?
Swearing at the TV whilst watching sport, politicians and bookmaker’s PR staff.
If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be?
Can I have three? Aneurin Bevan, Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela.
What is your most treasured possession?
My family and my good health.
How do you relax away from racing?
Walking locally. My involvement in local sport and theatre. A good beer. And to be honest, even though it’s not away from racing, I’m really enjoying making bookmakers pay out money they are withholding without good reason.
When was the last time you backed an odds-on shot? (I’ve cheated here)
There would have to be at least three rule 4s for me to get near backing an odds-on shot.
Do you buy food if it doesn’t have a yellow sticker on it?
What is a yellow sticker on food? I don’t understand.
What is the strangest/funniest thing you have seen on a racecourse?
A price bigger than Betfair on a bookmaker’s board. I only saw it once.
Who do you most admire from racing?
Tony McCoy. For 90% of his career, as a punter with no inside information, you knew he was trying his best when you backed a horse he was riding. I must also give a massive shout to racing media presenters who don’t take bookmaker money (you know who you are).
What’s your biggest fear?
Too many to mention, but the tablets help.
Do you have a nickname?
What’s the best reply you’ve had to a tweet?
Bookmakers and their staff blocking me. You know you’ve hit a nerve and being polite, using facts, is much more effective than abuse. You can still read their Tweets anyway if you are losing the will to live with nothing else to do.
Best advice for dealing with Twitter trolls?
If you mean people being abusive and really rude; fortunately ‘touch-wood’, I’ve had little of this. I’ve seen some emails I shouldn’t have where people have been highly critical of ‘Justice for Punters’. To be fair they were people who I want to criticise us, so job-done.
Who’s top of your racing ‘selfie’ hit list?
I would like all bookmakers’ CEOs to have to stand next to their passport pages and take a ‘selfie’ in order to prove they are who they say they are.
Who would be your four ideal dinner party guests?
The aforementioned three, plus Peter Kay.
Who’s your biggest fancy for next week?
Sweden each-way in the Eurovision song contest, assuming I can get a tenner on.