Racing Gets Some Tips From NFL Executive
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Brian Rolapp spoke at the Jockey Club Round Table.

The horse racing industry Aug. 10 was offered a look at the success of the National Football League and, though racing lacks the fundamental structure to support similar growth, there were some takeaway tips on maximizing interest in the sport.

Brian Rolapp, executive vice president of NFL Media and president and chief executive officer of the NFL Network, spoke at The Jockey Club Round Table conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He's the son of the late Rich Rolapp, former president of the American Horse Council and a recipient of The Jockey Club Medal.

"I hope some of the things I suggest today may be helpful," Rolapp said. "Some of the issues discussed (at the Round Table) are some of the issues we discuss at the NFL."

With 32 teams and almost 2,000 players, the NFL has 188 million fans, Rolapp said. The league sells 99% of its stadium tickets, he said, but still looks to drive interest through television, social media, youth programs, and off-season events like the draft, which was viewed by 45 million people.

"Aggregating an audience is difficult but increasingly valuable," Rolapp said. "It's all just media, and we don't think it's a conflict. It's an opportunity. This is 24-7, 365 days a year. The fans don't turn off (from the NFL) when games aren't on. Wherever they go is where we want to be."

Rolapp said the 32 franchises are "uniquely passionate" and focus on regional market economics. But they all embrace things such as rules for competition, player allocation procedures, and collective rights; he said parity is a major goal of the NFL.

"Success is based on shrewd allocation of resources, not the lack of them," Rolapp said. "Anyone any given year can win the Super Bowl. That's very powerful."

Rolapp said the first priority of the NFL is to have exciting, safe games. He indicated the league continues to assess issues related to safety on the field.

"The success of the NFL is the game," Rolapp said. "We believe health and safety is applicable to all sports. If we don't do that, then everything else is just window dressing."

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