Betfair Group plc

The Untold Story of Racing’s HQ

Blog post   •   Mar 27, 2012 15:36 BST

Betfair is a keen supporter of Racing Welfare, a charity which looks after thousands of people who have given service to the racing industry. Susannah Gill and myself recently went to Newmarket to find out exactly how the Charity helps the thousands who depend on it.

“Newmarket is the undisputed HQ of British horseracing and every year hosts some of the world’s most exciting and glamorous flat meetings. Racing milestones such as the 1000 and 2000 Guineas and the July Cup guarantees the town’s place at the heart of the sport.  However, behind the glamour, high fashion and sunny race days there is a much less known story that lies at the centre of Newmarket. 

More than 18,000 people are employed in racing, a sport which is more dangerous than Formula 1. The job of looking after all these individuals is the responsibility of racing’s own charity, Racing Welfare.  From a relatively unassuming building on Park Lane in Newmarket the charity provides invaluable and unique support to vulnerable people who are or have been involved working in racing, at any point during or after their careers.  This support comes in a range of ways including, helping in the rehabilitation of those involved in accidents, providing housing and social care to people involved in the sport and offering financial support and advice in times of need.  

1800 serious accidents happen in racing every year

“Racing Welfare was formed in 2000 and effectively brought a number of charities and funds under one banner” explains Head of Marketing Richard Negus. “The result is that we are a very broad church, providing social care and housing to anyone in Racing who has a genuine need”.   A tour of some of Racing Welfare’s facilities in Newmarket shows the charity’s footprint on the town, with it owning and running numerous sites. There is a wide range of housing available, from full time care, to sheltered accommodation, to simply affordable housing for people who have dedicated their lives to racing. All the homes are  bright, spacious and have gardens and communal areas that are designed to give resident’s the maximum social interaction and ensure a real sense of community.

Some resident’s needed full time care- Frankie O’Neill an ex jockey with a penchant for snooker, who has suffered a stroke, spoke warmly of the help Racing Welfare and his carer were providing. Others would have been left homeless  with nowhere to go if Racing Welfare had not helped. Racing industry jobs often come with first-class accommodation, but when the job goes (often through injury or illness) so does the house, and many tenants have been rescued by the charity and now enjoy a fantastic life among friends.

Simone Sear, RW Welfare Officer with Retired Jockey and Stable lad Frankie O’Neill and his carer Anne West at Jim Joel Court

Racing Welfare’s work does not stop at housing as they also run a full time helpline providing advice and support on a range of issues, such as drug and alcohol addiction and financial concerns. The mantra of Racing Welfare is always to look after everyone. “We are not as tightly focused as some other charities, and as accidents on yards are not in the public eye it is hard to bring them to the racing public’s attention. But there are 1,800 accidents in racing per year, with 600 of these classed as serious and affecting livelihoods. It is even more important to help those at the bottom of the ladder who often have nowhere else to go. They are the lifeblood of racing”.

This is exactly why Betfair is so proud to support Racing Welfare and all of the unsung heros of the sport as part of the bi-annual Pride of Racing Awards.

And for those wishing to keep up to date with Racing Welfare you could do a lot worse that follow Richard Negus’ on Twitter (@RacingWelfare).”

Betfair is Racing Welfare’s biggest corporate donor- contributing £250,000 over the last 5 years.