Judging on ‘Awards Sunday’ followed by the actual ceremony the following Monday afternoon, November 7, left me – as one of the panel of six assessors – reassured that this business is in great hands, writes Jim Cremin.
The great and the good gathered to celebrate the end of our process to find the new Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year.
The standard was exceptional. Each regional champion had brought a colleague from their shop to meet the judges; all ‘ran well’. They each faced a half an hour question and answer session with the panel and the fact it all went incredibly quickly confirms it was great fun – but also fascinating. The dedication and professionalism on show was a joy. The Gambling Commission and DCMS can be reassured that shop standards and awareness of everyone’s responsibility in terms of consumer protection are impressively high.
The Awards concluded our longest ever winner’s reign – Sandra Gilmartin of Paddy Power, Coventry – the 2019 champion. Covid then intervened.
This prompted an amusing aside from our host, the Racing Post’s Lee Mottershead, drawing comparison with a recent glut of Prime Ministers and Chancellors, particularly the shortest ever residence in 10 Downing Street. Sandra though stood firm through it all. Our thanks to her and Paddy Power for carrying the beacon for so long.
However, it was not easy to replace her and only after much debate, analysis and reflection was a consensus finally found around James Maloney. Our congratulations to both him and Grant Easton, his fellow manager from Star Sports’ Mayfair shop – indeed the entire team there.
Champion jockey William Buick was on hand to make the presentation to him, all the regional champions and Brough Scott, who this year stepped down from chairing the judging panel. He had been there since the start of the event in 1988.
Mottershead interviewed Buick, who provided an honest and fascinating account of what it meant to him to reach his pinnacle – and his determination to maintain the standard. His winning ride on Mischief Magic from the recent Breeders’ Cup was shown. That alone was remarkable, his sense of balance and timing a joy.
Maloney will now bring his team to Ascot on Friday December 16 to celebrate their victory in the SIS box there. A week later he will be at Towcester, making the presentation for the RPGTV Juvenile Derby – getting interviewed by Darrell Williams.
ITV Racing is also arranging an interview while a visit to ICE (London’s ExCeL 7-9 February) beckons as part of his immediate schedule. A full year lies ahead.
Our thanks go to everyone who took part – but also to the Racing Post and SIS too for continuing to back this celebration of betting shop staff. It has been a generous and long-term commitment.
A pride within the standard being set has been evident throughout – particularly around the new concept ‘Digihub’ screens which are increasingly common. It was fascinating to learn that older customers were readily taking to the new electronic screens while younger ones already love assessing the various betting elements on show. As ever, it takes work – staff must help put punters at their ease in feeling their way around these new products. The 16 key high achievers that we saw before us on that Sunday were indicative of the extraordinary standard being set throughout Britain and Ireland.
We salute them all.
Our Regional Champions
Anglia and south-east
Josephine Donoghue – Coral, Farnborough
James Maloney – Star Sports, Mayfair (overall – our Manager Of The Year)
Graham Fitzpatrick – Paddy Power, Carlow
Midlands and Wales
Hayley Hallam – Coral, Wolverhampton
North and north-east
Melanie Puckrin – Ladbrokes, Middlesbrough
North-west and Isle of Man
Steven Haines – Betfred, Rainhill
David Morley – William Hill, Glasgow
South-west and Channel Islands
Karina Begley – William Hill, St Helier