he Racing For Change taskforce, which features representatives from the sports’ major organisations, has proposed a number of new initiatives to modernise the image of British horseracing, some of which were long overdue, such as the listing of first names as well as surnames for all jockeys and trainers in race cards, while race names are to be simplified and racecourse announcements modernised.
Other initiatives include encouraging on-course bookmakers to offer standard each-way terms and enhanced customer services, a new website to be launched to promote horseracing as well as a central public relations campaign to promote racing to a wider audience, and a new free membership club for younger adults offering discounted admission to courses and shares in racehorses.
The trial of decimal odds for starting prices is the most striking and controversial of the initiatives, since fractional odds have been used by racecourses and bookmakers for hundreds of years. However racing officials have long championed the use of decimals as a simpler method for attracting a wider audience to bet on horses.
“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,” said Chris McFadden, the Racing For Change Chairman. “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." McFadden said that the industry needed 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,” added McFadden. “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.”