Welcome to the News desk.
|Racing For Change's free offer aims to hook new followers for
| Horse racing does not
figure prominently in the Liberal Democrat manifesto though of course
they never tire of reminding people that politics is no longer a two-horse race
but their surge in the polls in recent days offers at least some hope to
the executives at Racing For Change that they can create a Clegg effect of
Millions of Britons got
their first proper look at the LibDem leader last week and seem to have been at
least relatively impressed. From next Monday several thousand people
perhaps 20,000 or more are due to visit a racecourse for the first time
thanks to RFC's week of free meetings and all concerned are anticipating that
the sport's approval ratings will enjoy a similar bounce.
free meeting on Saturday week is already a 10,000-strong "sell-out", which is
impressive for a card that, since it competes directly with 2,000 Guineas day
at Newmarket, is always one of the track's more low-key afternoons. Ascot too,
where there will be free entry on Wednesday week, reports that nearly 7,000
people have registered to attend on their website.
Towcester, Sedgefield, Nottingham, Kempton,
Wolverhampton, Huntingdon and Doncaster are also taking part in the scheme,
with only potential punters in the south-west of the country able to complain
legitimately that they have been overlooked.
The ultimate success of
the experiment may not be apparent until this time next year. Ten thousand
extra racegoers at Goodwood would represent £200,000 in ticket sales
alone if they were all paying £20 a head. If 10% of them were to return
for the same meeting next year, never mind decide to take in a day at Glorious
Goodwood in July, that would put another £20,000 in the account, plus
food, drink and the track's share of Tote revenues. If a few catch the bug in a
serious way, it could add up to thousands over the course of their lifetimes.
These are not huge sums in themselves when set against annual betting
turnover or Levy yield but racing's future is going to be secured by many small
steps, rather than any sudden, profound change in the public affection for the
But there will be short-term benefits too, not least in the data
that can be extracted from the novice racegoers in return for their free pass.
What works and what does not, and above all what seems most confusing, and thus
off-putting, is information that will, within a few weeks, be available to any
racecourse that cares to ask.
Racing For Change has been seen as an
easy target by plenty of fans and pundits alike during its short existence, not
least because many critics failed to understand or chose to ignore
the fact that its brief is to attract new racegoers. If existing ones
appreciate their efforts, so much the better, but it is a fringe benefit, not
the primary purpose. And at times the marketing-speak has been so overwhelming
that cynicism has seemed the only appropriate response.
But racing can
also be irritatingly British at times in the self-effacing way it goes about
its business. Weymouth FC were garlanded with praise a few months ago when they
offered free admission to fans to apologise for a 6-0 thrashing. Racing is not
opening its doors because it is rubbish. The sport in Britain is as good as it
gets anywhere in the world and next week we are giving it away.
It is a
very positive response to the problem of building racing's fanbase and until it
is complete the people who are organising it on a shoestring budget
deserve the benefit of the doubt.
For a list free events and all
other racing fixtures go to Go To The Races