In a three part interview for the #BettingPeople series on Star Sports, Simon Nott interviews William Woodhams, CEO of Fitzdares.
This first episode talks about Woodhams’ entry into the industry and his family’s betting lineage.
Prior to entry into the world of horse racing and bookmakers, Woodhams boasted a colourful career in the entertainment industry. Coming from a marketing and strategic background, his employment experience varied from bars, Formula 1 cars, Amazon, Tiffany & Co, and numerous fashion brands which also included working on the Victoria Secret show. Yet, even after all of his success in these industries, he believed ‘it was only natural’ that he would end up being a bookmaker.
Noting that bookmakers are in the entertainment industry, a fact that he believes is often forgotten, Woodhams stated: “It is the greatest entertainment in the world. You get to watch what you love and sometimes you make a bit of money. I can’t believe anyone would think anything other than that. It’s the most fantastic business and I love it.”
Gravitating over to the betting sector, Woodhams has been at Fitzdares for just over two years. Speaking on his journey to Fitzdares, Woodhams commented: “Even though I did a different career path, I was a member of Fitzdares from its inception. Loved it. Loved the idea of, less a gentleman’s bookmaking, more just really wonderful customer service and events and experiences. I was a good enough punter to go to all of the Fitzdares’ events but not a very good punter as a whole.
“When it launched, Fitzdares was head and shoulders above the competition, particularly as when it launched, they launched text betting. At this point, you had to physically walk into a bookies or you maybe rang the office/call centre. When Fitzdares launched text betting it was pretty revolutionary. Unfortunately they’re a little slow on the other technology and we’ve caught up now.”
Talking on technological advances and how the industry is progressing, Woodhams commented: “I think the bookmaking industry needs a bit of a broom at the moment.
“I have full respect for the industry leaders. The tailwinds of compliance and governance and government are changing. They’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, the big boys and it’s about time that there’s some changes in the industry.”
The conversation turned to his family’s long lineage in racing, dating back as far as 1865.
His mother worked for ‘Turf newspaper’ doing racing almanac similar to timeform. His maternal grandfather was a professional punter. His uncle was Head Handicapper in Qatar, having also ran the Jockey club in Macau – and before that trained for John Fitzgerald. Woodhams great uncle was John Rickman, who before Ed Chamberlin, was the ITV Racing presenter.
John Rickman’s father, Eric Rickman, wrote on the racing pages of the Daily Mail under the name Robin Goodfellow. Eric Rickman’s father, Tom Jennings, trained three Classic winners himself and his father, also named Tom Jennings, trained the French-bred 1865 Derby winner and Triple Crown winner Gladiateur.
Talking about his first taste of racing, Woodhams reflected on his time at boarding school in which one of his fellow classmates’ fathers was a captain of a submarine and would spend long times out at sea.
Woodhams told him of his love of betting and an agreement was reached upon which he was given a William Hill card to place bets on. In return, Woodhams would be given 10% of all winnings: “It wasn’t my account but you shouldn’t place a bet on the behalf of someone else. It was terrible behaviour.”
From this, Woodhams then began to collect newspapers to find racing forms, eventually understanding the sport and how to bet. After some time, his mother finally took him to a racetrack where he said was the place he developed the (betting) ‘bug.’
You can watch the full first episode on Star Sports YouTube channel found here.