SIMON NOTT Come Racing

first_img[dropcap]I[/dropcap] had been planning this blog for a while, honest guv, I even primed it with my historical piece on Tiverton Races CLICK HERE a couple of weeks ago. The Greyhound Derby has taken precedent since then so with the Racing Post starting a week long feature on racing broadening its appeal I thought I’d jump in with no more procrastination.Racing really should be a PR firm’s dream, it has all the winning ingredients, It’s got glamour, it’s got colour, it’s got characters and most of all, bloody hell it’s exciting, where do people who don’t go racing or bet get that buzz?Of course we all know that, because here I’m preaching to the converted. The problem racing has in general is that it’s often so far up its own insular backside it thinks it doesn’t need to tell anyone, the arrogance of it. The people that run racing appear oblivious that the majority of people have no interest in horse racing let alone care about it. They are not suddenly going to decide to turn up at racecourses, they need to be led there.Of all the meetings in the racing calendar the Cheltenham Festival, and arguably the Paddy Power at the same venue are the only ones that attract people in huge numbers purely for the racing. Given that those meetings are long established it’s commendable that the racecourse don’t rest on their laurels and do their best to promotionally up their game annually while the National Hunt build-up to those meetings is self-perpetuating but still promotion.Then we have Royal Ascot and The Derby. I saw a terrific quote on Twitter recently that went along the lines of ‘Great societies are built on old men planting oak trees that they know they’ll enjoy the shade of’. Of the aforementioned duo, how many would flock to Epsom for the Derby were all the attractions of the Downs not there and no Queen’s patronage ensuring the well-heeled numbers bolstered on the other side? Likewise Royal Ascot, of course centuries part of the social calendar, but how long would it have survived had it not become so? Let’s not kid ourselves, the vast majority of people don’t go to Royal Ascot for the top class racing.Which brings us to bread and butter race meetings. Midweek they have been allowed to waste away with seemingly very little effort made to address their falling attendances. It’s particularly frustrating when you hear of premier racecourses actually closing areas rather than working hard on getting people to come. Anyone who has been to the Thoroughbred Arabian meeting at Newbury where they really make an effort to engage the local community will have witnessed the results. Yes there’s the lure of endless freebies and the prospect of winning a brand new car involved but people queue around the block to get in, for free. Most of them have no idea about the races and the breeding but they enjoy the day out betting with bookies and cheering home their winners. I don’t think I’d be courting contention if I said that take away all the freebies and charge a score entry there’d be less people at that meeting that your average all-weather meeting.Make traditionally quiet days free entry to Tattersalls, money earned from media rights on just one of the races could pay for some extra publicity. Start to build it up a well in advance get the locals involved, throw open boxes to local businesses, crank up some excitement, engage people, maybe even start a social media campaign, now there’s an idea!If nobody was coming anyway, nothing’s given away apart from the chance for people who wouldn’t normally be there to see what racing has to offer, of course a few extra staff would be glad of their wages too.It’s commendable too that some racecourses are using other attractions to get people to come racing, it’s a great idea and I’m all for it but are they just for revenue? Of these attractions, bands seem to get the ire of racing folk. It’s not hard to see why when I’ve heard racecourse announcers say ‘Only two more races before the music starts’. You can’t expect music fans to rush home and take subscriptions for the Racing Post after an evening on the turf but they do need to be engaged in the racing too use the music nights to promote racing not just a bolt on.Equally as important, don’t alienate the existing audience, make ‘non-event’ tickets available to people who just want the racing and keep the bookmakers badge fees to that of a ‘non-event’ night. It’s reality that the demographic of your average girl band fan means that betting turnover isn’t going to rise in proportion to ticket prices. Sadly it doesn’t mean that middle-aged men aren’t still going to turn up, get hideously drunk and then potentially ruin the night for everyone. If racecourses are going to turn their venues into nightclubs (where patrons have been encouraged to drink for hours beforehand) they need nightclub type security to the same scale.Back to my little historical tale about Tiverton Races, that captured the whole town’s imagination. The whole day was ‘The Races’ but it wasn’t just the races that attracted people, the people attracted the people but also the other attractions, musicians, entertainment, gambling, in short ‘the buzz’, there’s that word again, that buzz would have been building up for weeks then reached hive pitch by race day.We know that we have a winner in racing, people need to be told, crank up the excitement, build up that hype get the buzz going for each and every meeting, racecourses what are you waiting for? PR firms get your pitches in.Simon NottSimon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting RingCLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILSlast_img