The Rise of British Horse Racing

Horse Racing in Great Britain has never been so popular. Second only to football in terms of attendances, British Racing is well and truly thriving. The balance between providing something for everyone and appealing to people from a range of different backgrounds is proving to be a winning formula, transforming a sport from one that was respected by many to one that is loved by all. Why has this ‘winning formula’ only come to fruition now though? For a sport that is so primitive, it’s ironic to suggest that perhaps, racing was before its time.

The first recorded evidence of horse racing comes from 200 AD when Britain was under Roman rule. While not quite so revolutionary as other Roman inventions like roads, central heating, and the calendar, Racing was one of the first recorded sports to take place in this country and is still founded on many of the same beliefs today. Roman Emperors used to race their horses against each other, primarily as a social event but would bet on them also, which are still the two most popular pulling factors to the racecourse today. Following this, in the 10th century, the French House of Capet, gifted a number of thoroughbreds to King Athelstan of England, in an effort to keep the newly crowned monarch onside. This is something we still very much see today, as treating clients to hospitality on the race course is still one of the most valuable tools a business has available. A day at the races can allow for four-five hours in your client’s company, to build strong relationships and with food and drinks as well as a tote betting facility catered for in most hospitality packages, why leave your box?

In concept, racing is slightly old-fashioned, but we very much still value the pillars racing was built upon today. 1,800 years after the Romans, more people are going racing than ever. The Cheltenham Festival, The Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot all feature in the 10 highest attended sporting events of the year and with 6 million people going racing in 2016, it’s no secret that racing’s profile is growing.

What makes this all the more impressive is the fact that in terms of publicity, Horse Racing receives less than 1% of the TV coverage given to Sport. If this was to rise, then perhaps the sport could grow even further. The fact there is a lack of media coverage is not a coincidence, although many people enjoy going racing, there is a very small core base of racing fans, 55% of people on the racecourse are not regular visitors (Less than 3 days a year.) This is potentially problematic for the BHA, as it means while many are coming, not that many are regulars. One hopes that a lull similar to the one suffered in greyhound racing, which fell from an attendance of 56m in 1956 to just 2m last year doesn’t take place.

On the other hand, however, this issue is far from immediate. Unlike the majority of sports, Racing doesn’t appeal largely to a specific demographic. For example, 39% of the 6 million who attended a race meeting in 2016 were women. In comparison in football last year, just 12% of match attendees were female. The Chief Executive of Great British Racing, Rod Street thought that ‘this research reinforces the fact that racing is a brilliant day out that caters and appeals to a wide range of people’. This is also a unique selling point racing has. Unlike most sports, Racing has far more dimensions to it than just a sporting one. While the horses are certainly at the heart of it, the social aspect combined with its exciting betting culture as well as the fashion interest that ‘Ladies Day’ bring makes it understandable why racing appeals to such a wide demographic.

 

Paragon have over 15 years of experience in providing hospitality at Horse Racing events across Europe. If you’re interested in any of the events discussed above or for any further information on other events please contact us below.
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