Bursting of the Jollies Bubble; Cheltenham, Ascot and Other Away Days Are off Limits in These Inhospitable Times

By Cooper, Jonathan | The Evening Standard (London, England), March 7, 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Bursting of the Jollies Bubble; Cheltenham, Ascot and Other Away Days Are off Limits in These Inhospitable Times

Cooper, Jonathan, The Evening Standard (London, England)


THERE were some very disturbing advertisements in the Racing Post last weekend. With just days to go to the Cheltenham Festival, the horseracing extravaganza that is the opening gambit on the annual corporate hospitality circuit, you could still hire glass-fronted boxes overlooking the course, reserve luncheon tables in the restaurants or even take over an entire chalet in the tented village for your company.

Two years ago, just before footand-mouth struck, you could not even buy a ticket to watch the racing at Cheltenham let a lone lay your hands on a prime vantage spot, and in the mid-1990s the demand was such they had to turn away, according to commercial business director Peter McNeile.

Chris Coley has been supplying corporate hospitality packages for 20 years through his company, Coley Racing.

He says: "Life is difficult and getting more difficult. Many of my clients not attending this year are City clients.

There has been a noticeable drop in numbers and the corporate market is down on last year.

That is how life is at the moment."

Jonathan Newell's Champion Events company is newer to the game. This year, for Cheltenham, it advertised in trade publications and even distributed fliers around the City.

That resulted in few bites and he says the business is only doing well because existing clients have returned. In the industry overall, he too notes a downturn: " Companies are not prepared to spend u500-u600 a head. There are constraints on the budget that never used to be there."

Cheltenham is the top end of the corporate hospitality business. Something about the competitiveness of the racing, the huge sums of money wagered and the 14,000 bottles of champagne the course estimates will be consumed attracts City folk like few other events. If Cheltenham is suffering, then the business as a whole is in trouble.

Talking to events organisers and ticket agencies, you hear of companies in trouble, who have bought boxes for the top events but cannot sell them on or have over-expanded on the back of extravagant City budgets only to find themselves frozen out in the economic downturn.

Talk to these companies and they tell you about restructuring and refocusing or, in the case of one of the bigger companies,

nothing at all as the phone just rings out.

As they are struggling, so too are the ancillary businesses, the ones that bought into Quad bikes, mini-hovercrafts or go-karts or spent thousands on clay pigeon shoots that no one wants to pay for any more.

David Bland, director of The Event Business, a healthy marketing company with u1.7 million that tailormakes days out for a wide range of clients, points out that the nature of the business has changed: "A lot of people have done all the jollies and frankly have had all the jollies up to their eyeballs. Once you have done Henley two or three times you don't want to go again, once you have done Wimbledon it's the same, so now it's 'let's try and find something else to do'.

"It does need to be more focused and companies want results from it. It is not good enough to have a great day out and a hangover at the end. There needs to be a reason behind it." And that seems to be the major change in the whole ethos of hospitality.

One City type, who asked not to be named in case he did not get his invitation for next year, was a guest of a major bank at the recent England-France rugby match at Twickenham and says: "Usually you go down and get a bit pissed and have a good fun day out. This year they were actually hard-selling us their bank and its products. Bloody hell."

Indeed, such is the serious nature of modern corporate hospitality that UBS Warburg is at the moment suing events organiser Sport Mondial in a dispute over "warm beer and cheap white wine" allegedly served in a u90,000 box at football's Champions League final in 2001.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Bursting of the Jollies Bubble; Cheltenham, Ascot and Other Away Days Are off Limits in These Inhospitable Times


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?