‘Overworked’ racing boss sues Jockey Club for £2m
By Sarah Limbrick and Jack Hardy
A SENIOR executive at Cheltenham and Aintree racecourses is suing the Jockey Club for £2million, alleging that he was driven to the point of suicide by overwork.
Matthew Foxton-Duffy claims he suffered severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder while employed as head of marketing for seven of the racecourses owned by the 273-year-old organisation.
A restructure in 2020 meant his role required him to drum up an extra £28 million in ticket sales with a staff of only seven people, down from 21 previously, according to High Court legal papers.
The racing boss was ‘already working at his maximum capacity’ prior to the pandemic and had to shoulder responsibility for marketing some of Britain’s biggest courses, including Aintree, where the Grand National is held.
The stress led to him becoming suicidal and, according to his claim, he ‘discussed counting trees on his drive into work and decided which one he might choose to crash his car into’ while in conversation with a senior colleague.
‘His sense of humour became dark, then absent altogether,’ the writ says. ‘He began to cry in online meetings. He also developed a short temper with his colleagues that was out of character.’
Chief marketing officer Olaf Gueldmer centralised digital tasks previously carried out by external agencies, including web content and social media, and Mr Foxton-Duffy says he had to take on many responsibilities outside his role, while he received a pay rise of £5,000.
These included pricing, creation and design of tickets for Cheltenham, as well as badges and wristbands for more than 400,000 racegoers. He was also tasked with ensuring the turnstiles were working properly.
Mr Foxton-Duffy says he raised complaints about overwork and stress many times, sometimes in tears, and became so upset at a marketing meeting at Cheltenham he had to leave the room.
The final straw came with another planned restructure, in which the two heads of marketing would be replaced by one. He did not return to work after seeing his GP on January 12 last year.
The Jockey Club denies liability but said it would not comment on an ongoing legal matter.
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