Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…
I’D ALWAYS ASSUMED that by watching one of the specialist racing channels I’d be guaranteed to discover results as soon as they happened, race by race.
But, recently watching an extremely exciting and very close finish to a thrilling race being screened from Ascot, I was desperate to know whether my selection had prevailed or not.
One of the presenters instantly declared one of the two runners involved to be the winner, only to change opinion very quickly and suggest that the other contender had won.
At which point the programme cut off and we went into a sequence of seven, I think, advertisements being broadcast as my – and, I’m sure, many other viewers’ – blood pressure soared in frustration at not knowing whether my, and their, bet(s) had won or lost.
Eventually – it felt like hours later, but probably wasn’t QUITE that lengthy – we were returned to the programme, with a different voice crying out: ‘Dead-heat!’
Why, oh why, could the ad break not have been delayed for a couple of minutes so that we’d find out the result in ‘real time’ – or, assuming the channel may have been contractually obliged to prioritise the adverts, perhaps a caption could have been utilised to reveal the result instead of allowing the frustration to build?
I could – just – forgive ITV for having such a ‘wait and see’ policy as racing is only one of the many subjects their schedules cover, but a specialised racing channel really owes it to viewers, who are paying for the privilege of watching, to receive the courtesy of as speedy a results’ service as possible.
This happened towards the end of an afternoon, during which I’d earlier walked into our local High Street betting shop after delivering my laptop to the local, friendly computer-geek shop where I’d been told it would take an hour or so to carry out the necessary work.
Do I walk home, then come back? Maybe, but first I’ll nip into the local charity shop – where I snap up 5cds for a quid (a White Stripes was the highlight), a Kate Bush Christmas single from 1980 for another quid, and a pristine set of ‘Beatles playing cards’ each of the 52 flaunting a different Fab Four-related picture, for a third quid.
Then I think I’ll visit the local betting shop for a change, where I join a merry throng of one staff member, two active punters and a scruffy bloke seemingly there just to take advantage of the various ablutionary facilities available – whose presence did result in a plea from the two punters for the manager to turn on and up the air conditioning.
Unless, of course, that request was because of my arrival.
I pondered a small investment on the two imminent well fancied favourites in the next pair of races – a tactic which had paid off well on my last visit to a betting shop.
Something stopped me from placing the bet – so I was very miffed when the first contender sloshed up, but was soon delighted to see the second struggling over a furlong out and finishing out of the frame.
Meanwhile the most voluble of my two fellow punters was complaining bitterly to his acolyte about the fact the the winning greyhound in the last race had returned an SP of 3/1 – ‘But he was only 15/8 before and during the race – they do this all the time in here – they make the odds up as they go along – they’re crooks, no two ways about it- no other bookie makes their own market!’
I didn’t really follow his corruption allegations, but his mate seemed to. Nor was the rant over as he then launched into abusing US tennis player Madison Keys for losing her US Open semi final match against Miss Sabalenka, a game he’d clearly backed her to win – ‘She should never have lost that, she threw it away.’ To be fair to him, she had won the first set to love.
I took a quick peek at the Racing Post laying on one of the counters and was sorry to read of the death of 79 year old Tim Norman, who rode 50/1 Anglo to win the Grand National back in 1966 – when I was too young legally to enter a betting shop, but which, had I sneaked into one (I did) I’m pretty sure would have been (it was) rather busier than this one today.
The less than fragrant gentleman with no apparent interest in betting but happy to utilise the shop’s other facilities had now returned to recharge his phone, whispering into it at the same time.
A notice came over the tannoy (I still call in-house systems that, probably because that’s what they were when I used to work in betting shops) that the afternoon greyhound meeting was being abandoned because of the heat – have they never heard the phrase ‘dog days’ to describe such weather, or is it no longer appropriate?
I left the shop and was almost immediately accosted by a man, who demanded: ‘Is there a pub in this blooming (he didn’t actually use that word, but I don’t want to risk upsetting my more sensitive readers) place, or is it a blinking (didn’t use that actual one, either) dry town?’
I was able to point him towards appropriate refreshment facilities, (‘Is it a Wetherspoons?’ he demanded to know) then made a point of walking in the opposite direction, before retracing my steps and crossing over the road to reclaim the now refurbished machine which I was able to try out by typing in the very words you have just been reading…..
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.