Life in the Army and a job at a racecourse might not seem to have much in common but Alex Eade has swapped one for the other and has immediately spotted one area of experience that will come in handy during the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
“When I look at the likely length of the workng day during the festival, I’m thinking the level of sleep deprivation I experienced at times in the Army might come in handy,” he said as looked forward with relish to the challenge of overseeing the five-day event just a month or so into his new role.
Eade, 39, has had two spells in the Army, with a stint with Betfair in between them. But last year he decided he wanted to leave the services and get back into something sport-related – and is confident he has found the perfect job for him at Goodwood.
After an initial five years in the Army, much of it at Sandhurst, he spent five years with Betfair, first as operations manager then moving into public affairs.
A meeting with an old Army friend helped convince him to rejoin and the next five years were spent with the Royal Engineers, with an eight-month stint at the sharp end of operations in Afghanistan.
Rising to the rank of major, Eade was ready for a new challenge – and the switch to the racecourse fell into place.
This article appears in Glorious - the exclusive festival magazine produced by the Chichester Observer. Pick up yours at the Observer office, Chichester tourist information centre or library, Good News newsagents off North Street, or at the racecourse during the festival
“I was born within sight of Huntingdon racecourse and we’d regularly visit when I was a child, and I have cousins who are jockeys – so racing’s always been in the family,” he said.
“When I was looking for another change, wanting to live at home rather than be awy with the Army all the time, I knew Adam Waterworth from my time at Betfair and I’d come racing to Goodwood and played golf here, so I knew it well.
“I’m fortunate to have got this job and am excited about what’s ahead. It’s already the best racecourse in the country and, with the Qatar sponsorship deal, it has the potential to be the best in the world.
“Goodwood – the estate, not just the racecourse – has so much variety and so much going on. I’m still having to pinch myself to make sure I’m actually working here.”
Eade, who lives near Godalming, is happy that the big racing event of the year is coming so early in his tenure. “I’d much rather be in at the deep end than arrive just after the festival has happened and have a long wait until the next one.
“There’s a tremendous team already here who are guiding me and helping me and I can’t wait for festival week.”
His responsibilites are many and varied – he is to oversee everything from crowd safety and car parks to the commercial viability of the venue and making race days run super-smoothly.
“I think in my first month or so I’ll have had six to 12 months’ experience, which suits me,” Eade added. “There’s no need for revolution here, the racecourse runs very well; it’s all about evolution, gradually improving and changing things where we can.
“The Qatar deal takes us to an international level – the eyes of the world will be on Goodwood like never before – and it’s fantastic to be at the centre of that.
“The festival will be a challenge and the days will be long. I’ll be walking the course with Seamus about 6am each day, then making sure everything is in place for gates opening late morning, and basically overseeing every aspect of the site until well after the crowds have gone home – then doing it all again the next day.
“My job is to remember that everyone coming here is important – from the VIPs to the people paying a tenner in the Lennox Enclosure. They all expect, quite rightly, to have an enjoyable experience and it is my job to ensure they all do.”
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