UK racing battles to bring new spectators into the saddle

PARIS, France (AFP) — The crowded stands at Epsom and Royal Ascot are just the images a sport wants to broadcast around the world, but away from high-profile meetings, racing faces a tough time to attract fans. new viewers.

Worryingly for the ‘Sport of Kings’, the Crown appears to have lost some of its luster with disappointing crowds for York and Chester festivals in May with high quality racing spread over several days.

In Chester, attendance over the four days was 35,000, down 35% from the 53,500 who were at the corresponding game in 2019.

Ordinary mid-week meetings are also suffering as the races, like other sports and entertainment venues, struggle to attract visitors, with the public increasingly reluctant to spend money due to a cost of living crisis.

Rod Street, CEO of Great British Racing (GBR), which is the sport’s central promotion and marketing body responsible for increasing engagement and participation in horse racing, said AFP the drop in attendance is worrying.

“The cost of living crisis is definitely a factor,” he said.

“After two years of extended lockdown periods (due to COVID-19), all sports, leisure and entertainment offerings are competing at once.

“We also think that after two years people have lost the habit.

“As always, it’s rarely one factor influencing the trend but rather several.”

“Our consumer research tells us that the 25-34 market presents the greatest opportunity for growth, as this demographic consistently expresses an appetite to consider racing.

“Consideration is the step after awareness and before purchase, so this idea is important.

“We will target broader ethnic groups in this age category who better represent society, making our pool as wide as possible.”

William Woodhams, CEO of Fitzdares bookmakers, says there is still a lot to be done to make racing more appealing to the public.

“It looks dull at the moment,” he said. AFP.

“Apart from key meetings, we don’t seem to be getting the right cross-section of the public.

“The sport is entertaining enough and we just need to improve the overall experience.”

“People under 30 would have to pay £20 ($24) for entry, a free bet and a drink.”

Entry fees vary – the vast majority of racetracks offer free entry to those under 18 – but extras quickly add to the cost.

Goodwood, for example, is £12-26 for entry, but a bottle of water is £2.50, the cheapest pint is £6 and a burger is £9 as quoted by the race station.

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