Why do people think Racecourses are an anti-social free for all?

The Shergar Cup at Ascot was the latest in high-profile race meetings to be marred by loutish behaviour and a mass brawl with a supporting card of mini skirmishes. This time to make things worse the former was caught on mobile phone footage and posted on social media for the world to see. Grown men slugging it out with total disregard for those around them and the law. The latter was made easy for them as the law or any sort of security appeared to be non-runners in what was a scrap, at least the part that was recorded, 1.52 long.

What is it about racecourses that make people think that they can behave on them in ways they (hopefully) never would anywhere else, with impunity? There never seems to be adequate security or police presence at meetings that are little more than night clubs with a bit of racing.

How often would people, men and women, go on all day benders before heading out to a concert in the evening? How many would think to start fighting in a city pub beer garden? And how many would brazenly fuel that all-day of access with drugs the way they do at the races. Even in the seediest nightclubs people would be a little coy about taking illegal substances. Not a bit of it on the racecourse. A regular feature of men’s toilets at major festival meetings and summer Saturdays are pairs of lads queuing up to use cubicles in twos and threes? Judging by the sniffing that can be heard when they get their turn it seems terrible hayfever must be as prevalent as shiny suits and an aversion to socks.

In the previously mentioned generic nightclub, bouncers would be in and out of those toilets on a regular basis at least making people think twice before perking themselves up. I have yet to see any checks at any racecourses though have to confess not lingering for long after my own ablutions.

Racecourses often utilise sniffer dogs on entry to check licensed bookmakers kit for bombs. They be better placed getting canines deft at seeking out cocaine and let them run lose in the gents, that little intrusion would surely result in a chorus of flushes.

It’s long since been the case at football matches that anyone caught fighting in stadiums is banned for life. Why is it that at racecourses nobody seems to be interested in stopping the fuelled up thugs slugging it out. I really couldn’t give a damn what these morons do to each other either but it won’t be long before an innocent bystander gets seriously hurt. If racecourses are going to be used as nightclubs and patrons actively encouraged to get as much booze down their necks as possible during the day security needs to be in place to police it.

A decade or so ago I wrote in one of my columns that it wasn’t all that nice trying to use the Gents in Tattersalls at a course I’ll not mention. Drunken men showing off their talents for drinking lager from cans and urinating in sinks simultaneously weren’t most people’s idea of using the facilities.

I actually got a call from a senior rank at said course ‘thanking’ me for highlighting it. I told him them I only wrote it because it was true, surly even anti-social behaviour like that should not be tolerated, the perpetrators slung out never to return. I doubt they’d do it when round their old mum’s for a roast the next day.

The trouble is with racecourses, especially it seems the more prestigious ones, is the people that run them don’t have to endure what their policy of unpoliced debauchery results in. Closeted safely away in their boxes, they genuinely have no idea it’s going on and probably happy to keep as far away from it as possible. They need to get down in the thick of it.

I still do think that racecourses should encourage people to the races when the entertainment afterwards is the priority over the action on the turf. It boosts the racing’s finances and surely given the fantastic sport racing is at least some will fall in love with the races for what they are and come back, that’s got to be a good thing.

But, and it’s a big but, the louts that mingle with the vast majority of decent people that come to have a great day and night out need to be shown in no uncertain terms that racecourses are not a utopia for thug life. Fighting, anti-social drunken behaviour and use of illegal drugs need to be stamped upon with zero tolerance starting with the very next meeting. If the racecourses can’t justify spending the money they would require to do so and keep other racegoers safe they should think again about courting the audience they are currently targeting so successfully. Racing doesn’t need them, regardless of how much money they spend.

Simon Nott

skintmobSimon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting Ring