Fitzdares was founded by Balthazar Fabricius in 2005 to put old-fashioned customer service back into the increasingly impersonal bookmaking industry. He started with a traditional private telephone service and became the first bookmaker to introduce text betting. In 2016 Fitzdares acquired Sunderlands, which had in turn taken over T Guntrip, a 100-year-old bookmaker with roots in Mayfair. Not for nothing did Fitzdares choose Davies Street, W1, to open a first physical space as a private members’ club in September 2020: Mayfair feels like something of a spiritual home.
The club, which is upstairs at the Running Horse, Mayfair’s oldest pub, is referred to as, ‘the world’s most luxurious sports bar’. It must surely rank as one of the sumptuous places to settle in for the racing, rugby or golf – or whichever is the live sporting event du jour – seven days a week. The Rosanna Bossom-designed interior is colourfully classy, and somehow incorporates nine monster TV screens. But while the service is impeccable, it is really all about the excitement of sport. The club is the next best thing to being at an event in person.
In fact, during 2020 the club was arguably a better – and safer – place to enjoy sport. No crowds, no argy-bargy, no swearing (‘OK, a little swearing’) and no packed trains or traffic jams. It saw an increase in active members by a third from before lockdown. ‘This is the busiest we have ever been,’ says the club’s CEO William Woodhams. ‘Also, a huge amount of safe experiential activity is on the way, so we have forecast dramatic growth, which is really exciting.’ The brand issued an app to the public in 2018, enabling it to reach a wider audience of app-only members while maintaining its traditional private office one-to-one service. Now the app is being refined and personalised. ‘We are very proud of how we offer great tech that can fast-track you to a highly-trained human,’ says William.
That said, full club membership is an attractive proposition, providing access to more generous betting offers, invitations to Fitzdares Club hospitality at major sporting events, the Fitzdares Wine Club, subscriptions to the bookmaking trade’s Total Performance Data and the in-house Fitzdares Times, plus preferential rates at partner restaurants, top hat retailers and Savile Row tailors.
The club’s recent burst of activity includes building a mobile bar and cigar room, taking over a castle for the Cheltenham Festival, writing an old-fashioned book and making films. Spurred on by the success of its first filmic offering – a tribute to the legendary racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil, which has received millions of views – Fitzdares will continue to build out its ‘Honour’ series, putting further great sportsmen of old into the spotlight.
This year, Fitzdares looks a far cry from the brand that has, in the past, been perceived as a bit too old-school posh. ‘A true premium British brand looks forward but remembers the traditions that make us special,’ remarks William. Fitzdares may have an eye on the past but, with a procession of new ideas taking shape, it certainly has both feet in the future.