Over 3800 people representing racing’s main constituents – punters, racegoers, owners and trainers, breeders, stable staff, racecourse employees and industry professionals – have participated in an industry wide survey on the future of British Racing.
The research initiative, called Racing 2015, is a new and ongoing research programme being undertaken by Racing for Change in order to seek the views of stakeholders on important issues relating to the future of the sport. This new research will be used to build on the extensive consultation that was carried out over the last two years.
The majority of participants are core racing customers or work in the industry with close to 90 per cent stating that the sport is an important or very important part of their life. There is a good spread between jump and flat followers.
It would be very helpful to know what percentage of respondents are employed in racing and, ideally, the breakdown of those into groups – stable staff, owners etc.
The first of several surveys this year has asked for views on British Horseracing today and the opportunities for the future. The key findings were as follows:
* Existing racegoers consider the view from their enclosure, quality of facilities and racecourse atmosphere as being the most important factors in their enjoyment of a race day. Additional entertainment and experiences for children were not important to them.
* Many current racegoers already go as often as they wish. Time and then cost are the biggest barriers to the remainder, although only a third cited cost as a barrier to going racing more often.
Time is one of the most difficult barriers to breach: most people with disposable income have a job which prevents them from going racing Monday to Friday.
* Owners rate their love of the sport and horses as the most important reasons for ownership. Betting was not an important factor for nearly six out of ten owners. Whilst, a financial return was important to around half of owners.
More than 40% of owners therefore classify betting as important; this could have significant implications on the integrity front, not least because of the trust factor among punters. There is also the prospect of increased ‘policing’ costs. Given the constant harping from the Horsemen’s Group about prize money levels, some will be surprised that only around 50% of owners say a financial return is important to them.
* The average punter bets £10 – £50 a week on British horseracing. Whilst, seven per cent bet £500 or more a week. Only 25 per cent of the panel used betting shops on a weekly basis and there was a clear shift towards Internet betting. Football was the only other major sport bet on by racing punters.
75% of respondents do not use betting shops ‘on a weekly basis’. It would be helpful to know how often, if ever, they did use them. Once again, a demographic breakdown of respondents would have helped us interpret this statistic. It is self-evident that those with the facility to complete an online survey also have the facility to access online betting sites. I wonder how many owners, trainers, stable staff, racecourse employees etc choose to bet online with companies who pay no levy?
* There is no evidence that current racing punters have reduced their betting levels on British Racing, indeed cumulatively it has increased for participants. The minority who did reduce spending did so due to changes in their personal financial position rather than as a consequence of betting on other sports.
In a survey completed by people who are ‘core racing customers’, I would not expect a reduction in betting levels on British Racing – it would be unwise to make any general assumptions that this loyalty applies across the general spectrum of those who bet.
* There is evidence to suggest that increased TV coverage, more competitive racing and more frequent runs by top horses would increase punter participation.
* More than 85 per cent of the panel watch racing on TV each week, 42 per cent watch it daily. Online viewing is growing in importance, especially amongst younger adults. TV coverage does encourage people to go racing.
These figures strongly suggest to me that the vast majority of respondents make their living from racing.
* The panel considered racing to be good value relative to other sports and there was a broad consensus that the sport needed to make itself more accessible to newcomers. A sizeable majority did not agree with the view that racing had too great an emphasis on betting.
* A majority felt that the sport had the ability to grow but would remain a minority sport.
* The Racing for Change initiatives that were most strongly endorsed were the free entry promotions, regular editorial features on jockeys and trainers, ‘meet the racehorse’ activities, televised stewards’ enquiries, betting guides for novice racegoers and improved photo-finish graphics on-course.
* Three clear priorities emerged for Racing for Change. First, improving the customer experience on racedays, promoting the sport to new audiences and increasing the presence of racing in the wider media.
Rod Street, CEO of Racing for Change, said: “This is only the first of a series of surveys, so was general in nature and designed to capture some basic data. None the less, it was insightful and will help us in our strategic planning. To generate 3,800 responses from our internal audience was also very encouraging.
“A significant point to make is that this panel gives us a superb opportunity to research specific subjects in detail. First on our list is a more detailed study of betting behaviour , which is relevant in the current challenging environment regarding racing’s funding. We are of, course, undertaking detailed research of non-racing consumers to provide the balance required to help us to retain our existing customers whilst attracting new ones.”
A final point. I completed the survey online and deliberately answered that one of the factors that would prevent me from going racing was ‘welfare issues’. I would have expected then to see a follow-up set of questions to try to get more detail from me on those welfare concerns, but there was none.
It is impossible to satisfy everyone in racing. In their next survey, I believe RfC would benefit from a more careful construction of the questions, allowing a much deeper analysis of the outcome by learning as much as possible about the respondents, within the constraints, of course, of how much people are willing to reveal.