The long-awaited first initiatives from the Britain’s much-debated Racing For Change program that were announced Jan. 5 are not radical or major but will provide small steps toward making racing more understandable and fun, according to the organizers.
The big Racing For Change moves are due to be announced later in 2010 and will concern shaking up the fixture list in future years to provide big races each weekend and a clearer narrative over 12 months.
The 10 new initiatives announced Jan. 5 are:
--Funded media training for jockeys and trainers together with an appearance fee budget totaling £100,000 for non-racing media work to encourage those involved to be more open.
--All jockeys and trainers to be listed in race cards by their first names and surnames, something which has been long overdue.
--The outcome of photo-finishes to be displayed on screen at the same moment as the judge’s announcement of the result. Saddlecloth numbers will be larger to improve visibility.
--Race names to be simplified and racecourse announcements to be streamlined.
--Racecourses to improve the enjoyment and understanding of a day at the races for both new and regular racegoers. Initiatives include improved food and drink provision, new sales and marketing promotions (including more free and discounted days), enhanced raceday information with an emphasis on improving the quality of showmanship during the day. Improvements are also being planned in the use of on-course TV and the betting experience. They will be checked by a new independent quality-assessment scheme.
--Starting a new free membership club for younger adults that will offer discounted admission to many courses and shares in several racehorses.
--Launching a new Web site to promote horseracing to new and novice customers.
--A central public relations campaign to promote racing more effectively to a wider audience.
--Trials of decimal odds at several race meetings over one weekend in the spring.
--On-course bookmakers encouraged to offer standard each-way terms and enhanced customer service via agreed minimum service standards.
Chris McFadden, the Racing For Change chairman, explained: “British horseracing is the envy of the racing world with our abundance of outstanding horses, trainers and jockeys as well as a host of first class racetracks.
“Yet, despite the likes of Sea The Stars and Kauto Star, the sport needs to work harder to connect, as it did in the past, with the wider public. This is a result of a significantly more competitive betting and leisure environment - so we have to raise our game.
“What has encouraged us during the research and consultation stages of the project is that, fundamentally, there is little wrong with the racing as an entertainment, leisure and betting medium.
“What it requires is a clearer structure and better presentation of its strengths - its drama, spectacle and heritage as well as its equine and human stars.
“What we need to do is promote the sport in a way that makes it relevant to a much bigger audience and these 10 initiatives are the first steps in that process.
“Most thriving customer facing organizations, having optimized their core product, build on their success by doing hundreds of small things consistently well. This is what racing must set out to achieve.
“Work to overhaul the fixture list and to develop racing’s prize assets is well underway and we expect to make further announcements on this over the next couple of months.”