The new Fitzdares Club in Mayfair
The new Fitzdares Club in Mayfair

“The future of bookmaking is not bookies,” says William Woodhams, “it’s things like this.” 

It is a claim as unexpected as it is ambitious. Not only is Woodhams the CEO of society bookmakers Fitzdares but the ‘this’ he is referring to is the members-only Fitzdares Club which, a fortnight ahead of opening, still looks like a building site. By the September launch, however, the two floors of Mayfair townhouse above the Running Horse pub will have been transformed into what Woodhams is touting as the world’s most luxurious sports club. 

Connoisseurs of West End members clubs might notice that the wallpaper in Fitzdares’ horseracing room is the same pattern used in the loos of 5 Hertford Street. The look of both clubs is the work of interior designer Rosanna Blossom, who at Fitzdares has been tasked with fulfilling Woodhams’ design brief of “someone with excellent taste but a naff TV habit”. 

Nine Sony 4K TV screens hang on the elegantly decorated walls of the warren of five Georgian rooms, which include a poker room with a circular table for 10, a 30-seat dining room serving whole turbot from Devon and double magnums of Pomerol and a bar inherited from the Running Horse where ottomans and sofas will be cosily clustered around a fireplace. Rickety staircases will be hung with sporting illustrations by artist Bill Butcher while the club will discreetly act as a sales room for some of the finest equestrian art in the UK, supplied by local Mayfair galleries.

The club promises to reinvent 'match day'
The club promises to reinvent ‘match day’

Most important of all, Woodhams says that the Wi-Fi will be as strong as Heathrow’s. “Not because I expect the members to be hacking the mainframe but because there’s nothing worse than when you want to look at the Racing Post online and the TVs are using up all the broadband.” 

The idea of expanding Fitzdares into the world of members’ clubs came about because Woodhams believes there is a gap in the market for a sports bar that isn’t TGI Fridays or an Irish pub. “Two years ago we thought, why don’t we recreate the magic of the Cheltenham Festival in a really wonderful environment and call it The Fitzdares Club?” he explains. “We did a pop up at Mark’s Club, then Boisdale, 5 Hertford Street and Annabel’s. We bumped around the best clubs in London and even did a darts tournament at The Arts Club, only because we could call it ‘Darts at the Arts’.”

With social distancing here for the foreseeable future, the launch of The Fitzdares Club could not have been better timed. “As a member, you can take a room here without a hire fee,” Woodhams says. “You can watch sport with your family bubble, or your friendship group, your work colleagues or whichever environment you feel safe to be around people.”

One of the new club chairs being unwrapped
One of the new club chairs being unwrapped

There’s more to the place than having somewhere in Mayfair to watch the FA Cup Final with your mates, however. “Going to Ascot is miserable,” Woodhams says. “It involves a horrendous journey and wearing inappropriate clothes that make you sweaty. Cheltenham, if you’re based in London, is a 14-hour day lubricated with Guinness and champagne that’s fun for about an hour. Coming here instead will take the pain away from all of that.”    

The club’s first big party (socially distanced, of course) will be in October, when Roland-Garros and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe both take place over the same weekend and a French chef will provide members with a day of Parisian cuisine. Premier League matches (complete with in-person commentaries from John Motson), the Rugby World Cup, Vegas prize fights screened from 4am and the Melbourne Cup from 5am are further forthcoming attractions.

Membership to the new club will cost £600 per annum
Membership to the new club will cost £600 per annum

Other enticements to cough up the £600 annual membership include an in-house barber, shoe repairs from The Restory, dry cleaning dropped off courtesy of Jeeves of Belgravia and the potential to meet the love of your life over a backgammon board or poker match. The trump card, however, is the absence of a dress code.

“We had club ties made by Drake’s and then we realised that we can’t stand people who wear club ties, so our staff are wearing them instead,” Woodhams says. “The only thing that you’re not allowed to wear is a football shirt. We’ll let you wear a pair of Arsenal socks, though. At this club, no one will be judged for anything.”

Membership of The Fitzdares Club costs £500 per annum until 1 September, £600 per annum thereafter. To apply for membership, email [email protected] or visit the website. 

50 Davies Street, London, W1K 5JE;

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