The Grand National: should the BBC stop slowmo replays of fallers in the best interests of racing?

The BBC’s coverage of the John Smith’s Grand National has become much more of a ‘people’s event’ over the past few years. The corporation does a fine job of informing and entertaining; a tough recipe to get right given the mix of highly knowledgeable fans and the once-a-year punters who form the vast majority.

Given racing’s ambitions to attract more people to the sport, I suspect that the BBC’s post-race analysis does those ambitions no favours.

Big broadcasters are pretty damn proud of the power of their software, and editors seem especially keen to highlight the ‘benefits’ of super-slow-motion.  Somersaulting horses, spilling brightly-silked jockeys across the Liverpool turf, is, I admit, very hard to resist from a drama viewpoint.  And no doubt many watch these shock and awe slowmo re-runs with that fascination that compels human beings to ‘rubber-neck’ at road accidents and street fights.

But, when the credits roll, how many once-a-year fans will be left with the impression that this is a fine sport at which to spend a day out?  Not a lot, I suspect.

Maybe the BHA has some figures.  Is there any noticeable upsurge in racecourse attendances in the weeks after the National?  Have surveys ever been done to test the effect Grand National coverage has on the image of the sport in general?

I accept that people want to know ‘where your money went’.  But couldn’t the BBC utilise its brilliant technology in creating an entertaining virtual re-run offering a much ‘softer’ summary of where horses left the race?  Keep the live footage for all the best bits of the race and show them as often, and from as many angles as you like, but please, BBC, stop concentrating on replays of fallers.

Show them once, if you must, at normal speed.  Frustrating as this might be to your ‘creatives’, you’d be doing the racing industry a considerable service.

7 thoughts on “The Grand National: should the BBC stop slowmo replays of fallers in the best interests of racing?

  1. Absolutely spot on Joe but you are guilty of attempting to tell the dictatorship what to do and as a non democratic country, we ever so humble types cannot be seen ‘instructing’ what needs to be done for the nation.

    Channel4 might listen, At The Races and Racing UK hopefully so, but this is the BBC we are talking about here, likened to bankers, MP’s and anyone else who is in authority and those that will do whatever they wish to do, whereby the ‘working man’ is there to take instructions, not the other way around.

    John McCricick might be a buffoon in many ways but he is right when he says that without punters the industry is dead but furthermore, without horses there is no sport and as the saying goes, they shoot horses, don’t they?

    Thankfully we’re talking lethal injections these days now that we live in ‘civilized times’ but the era is light moons away when the likes of the BBC will take on board what animal lovers and people of sound minds might suggest.

    Keep trying though Joe because without ‘stayers’ like you around, we would still be watching black and white pictures on a sixteen inch screen!

    The problem of course comes down to the fact that John Logie Baird would be down the pecking order in terms of ‘celebrity status’ (even if he were alive today) behind weather presenters and the named lottery machines that spew out balls that a child of ten could develop.

    With the Grand National attracting a fraction of the audience that watch the said balls dropping from a machine on a weekly basis, is the BBC really going to listen?

    Thankfully we can choose to view what you have to say and long may that continue because as ever, you have offered a constructive opinion on what I also believe to be an important aspect of the sport we love.


  2. Hi there –

    Interesting blog – I read it and also made senior TV execs, who are responsible for the coverage, aware of it.

    I got this response for you on behalf of the BBC …

    “We certainly want to avoid any gratuitously unpleasant shots of horses falling; but the nature of jump racing is that horses do fall. Thankfully most of the fallers are not injured, and we do think it is important to show viewers what happened to the horses that they were following.”

    Lewis Wiltshire,
    Editor, BBC Sport website
    @LewisWiltshire on Twitter

    1. Lewis, thanks for highlighting it anyway though it looks like nothing will change in the editing suite. Very tough times for racing just now and it seems an anachronistic sport to many. I can understand the director’s viewpoint – drama’s what it’s about.

      I believe you can tell viewers what happened to their fancy without necessarily showing it so graphically.

      Anyway, I’m grateful for your prompt action and kind comments.


  3. I think that the BBC should definately not stop showing slow-motion replays of fallers in the Grand National. Horse Racing is a cruel sport which must be stopped and this hazardous course must be destroyed. This is the only way to raise awareness and to help to eradicate a cruel event on which far too many horses meet their death year after year

    1. I read your blog Benedict and the below is just ignorant and surely the product of bigoted self righteous hands over the ears prejudice?

      “When people are betting on this race, they are funding a lethal, ruthless and uncaring industry.”

      Unlike the meat industry or Bullfighting, as some clown equated it to, the emphasis is to keep the animal alive. Certainly my syndicate group would not have sent our fellow slow as he was to anything but a good home. We were neither lethal, ruthless nor uncaring and certainly not the people who looked after him in training.

      You’ve obviously never been to a racing yard or talked to anyone in the industry – at least not with a closed mind. No one in racing is happy with 1 death but accepts it’s an inevitable part of the sport.

      Efforts are made. The fences at UK racecourses have been weakened to cut down fallers to the extent that rates of fallers are considerably lower than Ireland. Fences are re-sited to allow better jumping and greater ‘fairness’.

      I’ve been an owner of a jumper and will not again. However that does not mean others who own jumpers are cruel or depraved or even in anyway wrong.

      I invite you to visit my ‘girl’ with me when she is back in training. It may not change your mind about racing but would stop comments like the one quoted above.

      1. I saw this ‘race’ with my own eyes and what I saw was 2 horses die, covered under tarpaulin and then referred to as ‘obstacles’ by former jockey Mick Fitzgerald. If the Aintree course stays, then Becher’s Brook must go. That stupid fence with a ludicrous 6ft 9in drop on the landing side has yet again resulted in another death to a horse. The photos of Dooneys Gate’s last seconds are dispicable. These ‘efforts’ that are made are clearly not enough and it is barbaric to hold an event every year which is almost guaranteed to result in another death for a poor horse.

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