Matt Chapman, Attendances and More
These scribblings are not going to dwell on Matt Chapman’s brief tenure behind the mic on Skating on Ice except to say that if he wasn’t cut out for the reality TV show and was gone after one week, one wonders who it was who booked him in the first place and are they are in the right job.
What was disappointing was the Racing Post making Chapman’s departure from the ITV peak-time show a front-page lead. To my mind it was an error of judgment, as was the prominence given to his joining the programme, coverage which included a comment piece.
It is of little or no relevance to the sport that a racing broadcaster has another job in television, and should have merited only a brief mention at most.
The start of a year brings about reports and analysis of the biggest and best of the old year, such as most watched TV programmes, biggest grossing films and bestselling albums. It’s a favourite of market research companies and business analysts to produce such surveys when things are quiet and which nobody really needs.
So it was with a report of best attended UK sports events compiled by Deloitte Sports Business Group, which had racing featuring four times in a top 10 headed by Wimbledon.
The survey covered events held on one or more consecutive days. That’s fine for racing, as it was Wimbledon and the second-placed British Grand Prix. But not, for example, rugby’s Six Nations, a tournament held over five weekends and therefore not included in the report. And whilst a cricket test match would qualify, a one-day series would not.
Racing can still be pleased that its paid attendance for major events ranks highly, but there are events not included which would push racing and the rest down the ladder.
In contrast the reporting of 2017 racecourse attendance by the Racecourse Association is of much more interest, albeit there are many caveats and extenuating circumstances which one has to take account in assessing the sport’s health in terms of racegoer numbers.
These scribblings flagged up in the Summer that racecourse attendance was falling behind prior year numbers. And so it was for the full year; total numbers dipped from 5,987,167 in 2016 to 5,953,749 last year.
A quick look at significant year-on-year variances highlights the effect that losing Ascot’s Clarence House fixture, the entire Ayr Western Meeting, and the Welsh Grand National had on the numbers.
Had they taken place, 2017 attendance could have exceeded 2016.
Saturday attendance grew to 2,290,937, an increase of just under 20,000 on 2016, but there was a fall for midweek meeting which might have something to do with the migration of some big races once held in midweek to Saturdays. That and some music nights have lost their lustre.
Maybe a rethink is required for midweek racing to assess pricing models and how the days are staged to claw back the numbers.
By far the most welcome news was a 9% increase in Sunday attendance, which edged closer to the half-million mark, with 493,464 worshipping at the racecourse.
Looking ahead for 2018, World Cup football will be a challenge as it will for TV racing when, for example, Royal Ascot will have to be split between ITV and ITV4.
What’s certain is that the aspirational aim once promulgated by the BHA of attendance reaching 7,000,000 in 2020 is unattainable – indeed matching 2016 is going to be no easy task.
Horse Racing Ireland’s initiative in creating the new Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on 3 and 4 February deserves praise.
Echoing the foresight and ambition of HRI’s Flat Champion’s Weekend launched in 2014, the new jumps fixture brings together two days of top quality jumping at the track south of Dublin and only 20 minutes away from the city centre on the LUAS tram service, with a connecting courtesy bus link to the course.
Day one has seen the Premium enclosure sell out and the Sunday take-up isn’t far behind.
It’s therefore disappointing that British trainers have shunned the event and its excellent prize-money, with only eight entries. British courses must be hoping that their fixtures will be well supported with so few horses heading across the Irish Sea.
It’s a meeting I am very much looking forward to attending, with the flights booked, hotel reserved and badges ordered. Only downside is that I booked a room rate which includes breakfast, forgetting that Bewleys on Grafton Street, which reopened late last year after a major refurbishment, do one of the best Full Irish breakfasts to be had.
Do I skip what I’ve paid for, or give Bewleys the swerve or have two Full Irish breakfasts? I think we know the answer.
A major success in sports promotion has been the racecourse incentive scheme Rewards4Racing where points are awarded on purchases through signed-up racecourses and retail affiliates and redeemed against the cost of racecourse admission.
But one aspect of the scheme is beginning to irk its customers – an overkill of marketing emails. The frequency of emails is approaching one a day, triggered by the customer’s account and from betting with any of the four bookmakers signed up to the scheme. Those who bet with more than one bookmaker get an email for each account.
There is benefit in receiving the emails because they flag up offers, but a little restraint needs to be used by Rewards4Racing if they don’t want to lose customers irritated by their inboxes clogging up.