Pools magnate and philanthropist Paul Zetter dies aged 98

Charity founder and chairman of the Zetters football pools company grew up in London’s East End in the 1930s


The family of pools mogul Paul Zetter have paid tribute to the philanthropist and racehorse owner after his death on Saturday aged 98.

Mr Zetter, who was Jewish and grew up in the East End, was chairman of the Zetters football pools company.

In 1981 he was awarded a CBE for his role in setting up the charity Sports Aid Foundation, which provides financial support to talented athletes hoping to reach the top of their sport but who have no access to funding.

Speaking to the JC, his daughter Carrie Wells said his involvement in the charity was probably one of his proudest achievements.

“Helping young sports stars reach their potential was something he was so passionate about,” she said.

Being unable to afford the right training is one of the greatest barriers to success for young sports stars, according to the charity.

Mrs Wells added: “He was involved in doing it before the National Lottery and all of that. He was very proud of it, helping big names like Sebastian Coe, and Torvill and Dean.”

Mr Zetter also had a passion for racing and owned horses between 1995 and 2010 with his son-in-law Lawrence Wells, who trained at Billingshurst, West Sussex.

“He lived a very full, interesting and happy life and was the most incredible person,” said Mrs Wells.

“He was hugely successful with the football pools and most businessmen have a bit of a side, but he didn’t. What you saw was what you got – he was kind, generous and thoughtful. He was a real family man. And incredibly proud of his Jewish roots and religion.”

According to his daughter, Mr Zetter was a good friend of former West London Synagogue Rabbi, Baroness (Julia) Neuberger. Mrs Wells said: “He wrote about his bar mitzvah in 1936 and said it was ‘sensational’.” In the same book he recalled what it was like growing up in the East End when Britain’s fascist leader Oswald Mosley had his widest support.

Mr Zetter served in the Army in the war before joining his father Syd’s business, which became a public company in 1965. “He would often say to us that he ‘won the war’,” Mrs Wells recalled.

“He was too young to be sent out the Far East but he trained on the tanks in Bovington. They soon realised he was incredibly fast at Morse Code and so he joined a special unit for that.”

Mr Zetter’s wife of 65 years, Helen, died three years ago. She was a German Jew and they met after she had survived the war and come to England.

“That was very hard,” Mrs Wells said, “but they had a very happy life together and both were great parents.”

He is survived by Carrie, his son Adam and four grandchildren.

Baroness Neuberger would visit him twice a year at his home in West Sussex and described him as “like every Jewish parent, always trying to ply me with food”.

Mr Zetter was a keen gardener and enjoyed showing off his prize orchids. Baroness Neuberger said: “He didn’t have a great start in life but boy did he make the most of it.”

Tim Lawler MBE, SportsAid’s Chief Executive, said: “He was a founding father of the charity and part of its DNA – shaping the organisation’s values and purpose. He was the type of leader we all aspire to be. Go well, Paul.

“Thank you for building the foundations we now stand on.”

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