AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

SIMON NOTT: Was what Ed said Balls?

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here has been some conversation on social media on what ITV’s Ed Chamberlin said at the Gimcrack dinner then reported in the Racing Post. In a nutshell it wasn’t controversial at all, just common sense, racing needs to modernise and attract new people. It’s pretty obvious that if it doesn’t it’s going to be in serious trouble in a generation.

People on-line have been screaming the place down saying that events held at racecourse on the same day as racing don’t attract people that are interested in racing, it dilutes the sport and deters ‘real racing fans’ from attending. It’s actually not new, if you go back far enough in racing history it soon becomes apparent that in the (very) old days, ‘race day’ was an all-encompassing jolly up for the entire community. A lost of towns came to a halt with a public holiday for all. The races went ahead as did a whole lot of other stuff did in parallel, something for everyone. It would probably be to the detriment of local business if Southwell followed suit with the holidays, but you know what I’m saying.

Back to the concerts, I always thought that they were a good idea, they certainly get people into a racecourse that wouldn’t have thought about going racing otherwise, bingo. However, the original conception was to then try and sell racing to those people once they were in, but it doesn’t seem to happen. To the contrary, I have heard racecourse announcers almost apologetically inform patrons that ‘there are only three races to go before the concert’. People need to be engaged, depending on the act booked and that is where racecourses need to think carefully too, different angles need to be used. If for argument’s sake a teeny bopper band are booked then gambling can’t be the main incentive, nor drink, surely the latter should never be. The excitement of a horse race can still be instilled in those under 18’s. It needs to be treated as an investment for the future. How about something simple like each kid on arrival has to pick a horse in the feature race, those that pick the winner then go into a free draw for a couple of them to meet the band backstage? Something along those lines? I’m sure it wouldn’t take much brainstorming to come up with a more sophisticated idea than mine. One thing is for sure, there should be discounted non-band tickets for racegoers who are interested and bookmakers that don’t benefit from racegoers that don’t bet.

I wrote about attracting the nightclub set and the habits they bring with them at weekends previously here sentiments haven’t changed. Instead of plying them with booze, getting them to bet with the bookies or fair’s fair (they’ll soon realise where the value lies) the Tote should they wish, should be the way forward. Don’t give them free pints but free punts, the bookies/tote to be squared up afterwards, at least then some interest has been taken by the new racegoer in actually looking at the horse names and the mechanics of having a bet. I’m not so sure that for a first timer fan-faring of jockeys and talking heads giving their expert opinion would be of much value. Of course, that’s open for debate, though certainly not the latter, giving people, an instant inferiority complex isn’t the way forward and something lost on some in the industry. Everyone who has now classed themselves as a ‘real racing fan’ will remember the day they first went racing, or their first trip to the betting shop that hooked them. Let’s pool those ideas and see if there’s an angle there.

To conclude, Ed’s not talking balls he is talking sense. Racing has a massive amount to offer. Where do you start? It’s got colour, excitement, characters, glamour, world class sport, adrenaline on tap and was ahead of its time as a social melting pot. Where else can you go in the UK even and (almost) rub shoulders with the Queen. Racing should be a PR company’s wet dream. Racing needs to get a decent tank together and put their brand publicity up for tender. A top-class PR company, in no way racing affiliated, should be able to transform the image and fortunes of the sport and relish the challenge of doing so. There’s so much to sell, PR gurus form an orderly queue.

Simon Nott

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