“The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright”
In Lewis Carroll’s poem, the Walrus and the Carpenter, the two principle characters deceive a colony of young oysters in to lining up thinking they’re going to hang out with them for a pleasant chat. Unbeknownst to the shell-dwellers, this was all just a plan for them to become snack-fodder for our cunning protagonists.
I’m not suggesting that Paul Ross selected the Walrus and the Carpenter pub over the road from Old Billingsgate to host his bygone LAC meetings with affiliate managers out of any foreboding sense of literary-based predilection – it was simply the closest boozer. But as every affiliate manager who dodged the dual carriage-way traffic on Lower Thames Street to make it to the Walrus will testify, the reality of the meeting with Paul and one of his Punters Lounge sidekicks was anything but a tea party.
One element of Paul’s character that I’ve heard echoed since his sad passing on Friday night was his generosity. For every Jack Daniels-heavy expense receipt that was logged by the affiliate manager he hammered to land the commission deal he wanted, there were ten stories of how ‘Sir Puntalot’ had served to help within the community he had built – the first betting forum in the UK – and the industry in which he worked. Punters Lounge Technical Director Stephane Travostino refers to Paul as “the most generous person I have ever met in my career”. There was material generosity, but all the stories I’ve heard of Paul really zero in on his generosity of spirit and of time.
I can speak to both. In his final months, when he knew that his time was running short, Paul was generous enough to give some of it to me, providing some of the greatest and – in a way that only Paul could do without offending – frankest advice I’ve ever been given. He went out of his way to address problems I was facing when his outlook was evidently bleaker. I can’t thank him enough for that.
The reaction to Paul’s passing has hit Punters Lounge members hard, but it has given those who so enjoyed the forum community Paul built the chance to thank him and to share their thoughts and memories.
His colleague Steve Day summed up what ‘Ross the Boss’ had built with Punters Lounge. “His enthusiasm for Punters Lounge was infectious. I’d struggled to buy into any roles I’d previously had when it came to work. Paul made it easy to fully invest in this place. He not only believed in what Punters Lounge was and should become, but he also believed in those that wanted to make it happen”.
That included every one of the forum’s contributors, who were treated to some of the most entertaining race day outings imaginable thanks to the forum’s success. I went on one of them – PL Raceday XVI back in 2013. This involved an overnight stay in Wolverhampton, a coach ride seeing the farmyard sights of the Black Country with 50 or so forum members – or as PL member ‘aliando’ calls them, “like-minded lunatics”, who had flown in from beyond the British Isles, a chilly, wallet-emptying afternoon at Ludlow racecourse, followed by an unsteadying evening at the renowned Crooked House pub in Dudley. At the centre of it all was Paul, who put on one of the most fantastic racing hospitality events that I’ve ever been to, that day. Give me Paul’s Ludlow over the Queen’s Ascot any time.
It’s easy to see why those race days attracted so many from so far and to see how Punters Lounge has grown to become one of the leading sports betting affiliate sites anywhere on the planet. One of his long-time PL sidekicks Graham Sarson shares the recipe for Paul’s secret sauce. “He tried to make engaging on the forum a pleasurable experience and likened it to going down the pub. I think to this day we still have that feeling about the place”.
Paul was especially proud of the recognition the site received being named as one of the EGR Power Affiliates in both 2019 and 2020. This pride was stooped in the blood, sweat and tears that Paul has given Punters Lounge. There were good times, but like most single site affiliates, there really were bad times. Unlike many webmasters I deal with, Paul always told you about them. He was refreshing, always to the point and ever-ready to provide advice – whether you wanted to hear it or not.
His long-time friend and fellow affiliate Danny Campbell recalls such a time. Paul forwarded him a series of emails he had been swapping with an affiliate manager. “His payments had been delayed and they were attempting to change his commission structure against his wishes”.
“Paul forwarded me the email thread and proceeded to be very vocal about the affiliate manager’s ability to do their job… in what can only be described as very colourful terms. The mistake he had made though was to copy the affiliate manager into the forwarded email he sent to me. The affiliate manager called me up. I spent 15-20 mins telling them Paul was a good bloke and must have just been having a bad day. They came close to suspending his account. I’m not sure to this day if Paul ever had to meet this affiliate manager again at a conference, but I would have loved to have been there and listened to their conversation.”
No doubt it would have been forthright and honest.
Paul spent his final months driving Punters Lounge forward. The site and the forum are better placed than ever and they will continue to be the unique betting community that Paul strove to build with such wholehearted dedication.
Graham added that “Paul was the most optimistic boss I have ever worked for. ‘This time next year’ was his favourite saying”. It is incredibly sad that Paul does not get to see what that next year brings – tragically cancer sees Paul leave behind his young son Anton, sister Kayla, his father and a community of friends hell bent on continuing his legacy.
To honour that legacy, I’m delighted to announce that there will be another Punters Lounge Raceday – or more specifically a Paul Ross Memorial Raceday – at some point soon. All those affiliate managers Paul put through their paces are welcome as part of the community – but please expect to see oysters on the menu.