What follows are my emails to Goodwood racecourse about what I consider to be poor value for money membership.
“Some time ago I spent the best part of £300 buying an annual membership of your wonderful racecourse for my wife. We have done this for many years with the odd break. I just wanted to wonder out loud about a couple of things though. You say that Membership gets you access to the Richmond enclosure with exclusive access to the parade ring and so on but it would also seem that any old passer-by with £25 or so can just buy a days access as well. This somewhat detracts from any feeling of exclusivity? I am less convinced of the benefits of this membership than I used to be as it seems one of the primary benefits can be purchased on a pay as you go basis.
Secondly your dress code for members stipulates gentlemen must wear a jacket and tie and ladies should ‘dress smartly’ and no jeans or shorts are allowed. I have a couple of issues here. At what age does a boy become a gentleman? There were many boys and teenagers in attendance on Friday evening in what can only be described as extremely casual attire including shorts. Can I suggest that if a chap is no longer in baby clothes, he then qualifies as a Gentleman, for the purposes of race going at least, and as such is made to also wear a jacket and tie.
This brings me neatly onto the smartly dressed ladies. Can you please advise who is the arbiter of ‘smartly dressed’? I would wager that if Jodie Marsh or ladies of her ilk turned up wearing only some strategically placed belts she would still get in unchallenged. There are, in abundance, at every race meeting ‘ladies’ attired in the sort of outfits that ‘professional’ ladies would balk at wearing. I would offer that some small item of fabric roughly fashioned into a covering of some sort does not constitute ‘smart’. Some (for which read those with eyes) may even suggest it is cheap and vulgar. This is Goodwood racecourse not some Newcastle nightclub at 3am. Finally on the no jeans rule. Jeans do not have to be blue denim. There were plenty of race goers in the Richmond enclosure in cotton Jeans, are these acceptable while Blue denim are not? My point is that if you are going to have a dress code, please enforce it or why bother having one?”
They replied as follows
Thank you very much indeed for your email which Brenda has forwarded to me.With regards to annual membership, I am sorry you feel you are not getting anything ‘extra special’ to the people who come along and buy tickets on the day. With the cost of new membership now £449 and renewal only £299 for 21 days racing (including Glorious Goodwood), plus 40 reciprocal days at other events including the Friday of the Festival of Speed and the Revival, plus the ability to bring guests along to the members days at the start and end of the racing calendar, we do feel that this still provides a very good deal indeed. The cost to purchase tickets on the day for the year would be £460 and this doesn’t allow non-members to use the Richmond Enclosure during Glorious Goodwood week, which are worth another £385.Your second comment relating to dress isn’t an easy one, I know. We actually treat under 16s as children, as they are obviously still at school. I fully take on board your comments regarding the ‘ladies’ attire and I appreciate that, in your opinion, you feel that some of the dress is rather cheap and vulgar, however, as I’m sure you can understand, this is very difficult to police. With regards to the jeans rule – anyone who wears denim, be it in blue or any other colour, should not be allowed into the Richmond Enclosure. Our security team do try and monitor the dress code as best they can, however, do bear in mind that and on warmer days, we do relax the jacket rule and this is announced over the PA system on the day.Thank you very much indeed for writing in. We take on board all comments, good or bad, and I will certainly take up your points with the team at our next briefing meeting.I do hope we can welcome you back to Goodwood very soon.
So I send this back.
“Thanks Adam for your response. Much appreciated. I absolutely get your point about additional benefits and reciprocal days but I have done some investigation and have deduced the following. Of the reciprocal days only two race days on weekends are less than 130 miles away. Of the others only one is less than 200 miles away. 3 are in another country. Most racedays during the week are for far-flung places which would involve an extremely casual relationship with an employer to contemplate. Of the Goodwood meetings half of your race days are again midweek so the same as above applies.
This is my fault though for not thinking this through and seeing that I am paying for something I can’t actually use. We thought the membership would afford us some sort of exclusivity at the Goodwood races at least making you feel your day is a bit special somehow but upon discovering that the only qualification needed for entry to the members enclosure and facilities is some cash and a jacket and tie. I am not sure about your point on non members using the Richmond enclosure during glorious Goodwood. My understanding is just that we can bring guests who pay about £65 per head to enter the gates. (which I have to say doesn’t grab me as amazing value for money)
With regard to the dress code It’s just a case of people with an eye for what is appropriate and what is not. You could employ someone to cast a quick eye over the entrants and just say, “sorry not appropriate, you are not coming in”. Smart venues do this. I watched with a bemusement at the gate when a handful of lads and their dates arrived without the required tie and were sent to find one while their girlfriends waited, dressed in millimetres of clothing, displaying far more flesh than fabric. I have seen lingerie models with more clothes on. The saddle covers more of a racehorse than their clothes covered these girls! But no one batted an eye ! How can this possibly be acceptable?
I am an awful long way from being a prude. Indeed my wife felt I was enjoying not knowing which way to look as the meat market filled up over the course of the evening. Of course most chaps like to see a pretty girl barely dressed. However as I said before, this is not a nightclub dance floor, this is the members enclosure of Goodwood racecourse which claims to have a dress code. You said you relaxed the jacket requirement, which you did, on warmer days. I would venture that on Friday it was mild rather than warm and I was certainly not warm enough to take my Jacket off. So I guess that’s it for Jackets for the season as Summer has barely begun?
One point I completely forgot to make though is that in the champagne and seafood bar. We got a table and as I was driving, I wasnt drinking so I went to get just a glass of champagne for my wife. I was told only bottles are available of champagne or wine. As my wife didn’t want to sit there drinking herself senseless quaffing an entire bottle we had to look at alternatives. This is appalling host responsibility. With the numbers of people there you could easily have glasses available rather than a whole bottle. This to me is just encouraging drunkenness. I found several people in the vicinity of the bar who agreed with me. So we had to abandon the lovely enclosure and tables and go and stand several deep at the bar by the parade ring. Half of which was roped off for some music event that was nothing to do with the racing! At this bar they don’t serve any sort of food, no nuts, crisps or anything? I bought a rather ordinary sandwich in a box at another stand and was charged £5 which even the girl at the till thought was extraordinary!
So what we were looking forward to very much as our first nights racing and events at Goodwood became a series of disappointments, ill feeling, bad value and to cap it off a visual assault on ones sensibilities. It was profoundly depressing to see what was once such a great racecourse in the most beautiful spot has become. Maybe its just another sign of the general decay of society which everyone is referring to and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It’s very sad.
We will of course try to recover some value of the outlay of membership by squeezing in a couple more meetings but the membership we once aspired to afford is now some distance from our priorities in the future.”