Twitter Q&A: Paul Fisher, Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses
Published: 08 Oct 2014
Q: How did you end up in your current role?
PF: I was Finance Director for Gillingham FC (when we were in the Championship!), before joining The Jockey Club in the same role. I originally worked on the three London racecourses before moving up the scale to my current role.
Q: What is the most difficult part of managing such a broad spectrum of venues/events?
PF: First of all, the regional variations, eg. the Grand National is a wholly different event to the Epsom Derby. A big challenge is also organising events from summer and winter - both require very different facilities/customer offerings. The key to success is the variety of customer offerings we are able to produce. These include family events/formal days/music nights... People do not realise we are the 6th biggest music promoter in the UK! It is completely different to other sports (Rugby/Football) - customers are present for 5 or 6 hours rather than 2 or 3, so the customer experience has to have longevity. It also differs as you can get up close and personal to the superstars of the sport!
Q: Can you tell us the ups and downs of being an undercover boss, please?
PF: The Ups: a unique insight into the workings of the organisation and, personally, showed me the passion people had for the business. The downs - It was like starting a new job every day! It was an emotional roller coaster that I hadn't anticipated. It was a really humbling experience, and again, really showed the passion people have for the sport.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone looking to get into racing?
PF: First of all, you must be prepared to work hard! Secondly, there is lots of planning - months in fact! Race days don't just happen! Of course, if you were interested, many of our roles are advertised on GlobalSportsJobs and on our website. Finally, being able to connect with people from all walks of life is ESSENTIAL!
Q: How have your experiences on Undercover Boss changed the way you manage The Jockey Club?
PF: Firstly, it was filmed 4 and a half years ago and was the catalyst for significant values led cultural change process. The Jockey Club brand has been developed significantly during that period and we now operate as a group with shared vision and values. The Jockey Club invests every penny of profit back into racing and every decision made is for the long term good of the sport; People now wear The Jockey Club badge with pride.
Q: Do you ever worry about low attendances and what would you do to combat this?
PF: We currently have 1.8 million people racing per year and our festivals have never been bigger. Our biggest challenge is getting people to the races midweek - after all, racing is a 7 day a week sport, unlike football/rugby. These challenges are why we try and create stand out days - music/ladies day/Peppa Pig showing up on a Sunday!
Q: Aside from financial investment what do you look for when seeking event or racecourse sponsorship?
PF: Brand alignment is increasingly important to us and working with partners who want to grow their brands alongside promotion of racing. Sponsorship now has to be a partnership, not just a brand awareness exercise - data is the key to success in this area.
Q: You raised £25m from the first retail bond in UK sport. A year on has it proved a success and what have you done as a result?
PF: Extremely successful for both us and the investors. The new Grand Stand and redevelopment of Cheltenham continues apace. Everything is starting to take shape for the start of the new season at Cheltenham on October 17th/18th. The scheduled completion is December 2015, and we continue to race as normal during developments. The bond and our loyalty scheme, Rewards 4 Racing, has brought us much closer to our customers!
Image: Paul Fisher during his time on Channel 4's 'Undercover Boss'
Paul Fisher is Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses