Not so glorious
“No one is more shocked than me because this sort of thing doesn’t happen at Goodwood”.
So said Goodwood’s general manager, Alex Eade, in response to the violence which broke out at the West Sussex track which saw three people hospitalised and police seeking the culprits. Anyone who has seen the video footage will have been sickened by the ferociousness of the violence.
Unfortunately, Eade’s reaction is naïve and suggests that he doesn’t get among racegoers on a busy day to see what many of us regularly witness – people fuelled by alcohol, and possibly drugs, taking part in anti-social behaviour which sometimes leads to fights and bloodshed.
Maybe he thought that Goodwood’s strict dress-code imposed in the premiere enclosure sends a message to would-be troublemakers. But Goodwood was and is just as susceptible to hooliganism as any other racecourse on a hot day.
Whilst the incident was taking place at Goodwood, I was at Newmarket, a course I often have second-thoughts about visiting, particularly on a busy day, where on more than one occasion I’ve seen fights break out.
But on Saturday I got the distinct impression that there was a heavier and more visible presence of security personnel. For the first time I can remember, they were at Newmarket Station and there were sniffer dogs at the racecourse entrances.
From the outset, a strong warning was being given that bad behaviour would not be tolerated.
That said, what you never see is a watch being kept on the bars where those who have had too much alcohol continue to be served. A witness at Goodwood knew some time before events unfolded that in a particular bar the atmosphere was becoming dangerous.
There are particular bars at all the big racecourses where the binge drinkers congregate and it would do Alex Eade and his opposite numbers elsewhere good to become fully familiar with them and how much alcohol is consumed beyond sensible limits by a very small minority of people, rather than concentrating on the bar takings.
That’s where security staff, properly trained and capable of dealing with drunks, should be operating to nip trouble in the bud.
A rock and a hard place
These scribblings were less than enamoured with the launch issue of Saturday-only The Racing Paper, suggesting that much remedial work was needed if it was to survive.
Four issues later, and a few problems have been addressed. Greyhound racing has been added, and racecard analysis is better presented. But the main problem remains – inconsistent editorial coverage and, worse, inconsistent coverage of race meetings.
Some fixtures get full analysis and form, some just get form summaries – something which particularly applies to Sunday racing where the value of covering the weekend’s racing in one day’s paper is squandered.
So, some improvement and there may be more to come, but the feeling is that The Racing Paper hasn’t delivered a package to rival the Racing Post and doesn’t do very much more than you get in the Saturday racing pull-outs in the tabloids. Caught between a rock and a hard place and likely to be squeezed.
Making the right media decisions
Confirmation of the much-heralded move by Chester and Bangor racecourses to At The Races, soon to become Sky Racing, was followed by an upbeat statement from RUK’s parent company that 34 tracks were continuing with their contract with RUK for pay-to-view coverage.
Little surprise there as many are shareholders in the specialist channel, and the statement had a hollow ring to it, giving the impression of presenting good news in anticipation of possible bad news. That’s because there’s one racecourse left to decide with whom it will side for its pay-per-view deal – Ascot.
Ascot is a bit of a maverick when it comes to broadcast rights. It used to be with ATR, moved to RUK and could quite easily return to the ATR fold.
If it does it’s not the “hammer blow” to RUK that The Times’ Mark Souster described it as, because a higher proportion of Ascot races are shown on ITV than any other track. All six races each day at Royal Ascot are free-to-view on ITV, as is the whole of Shergar Cup Day and Champions Day.
It would, however, be a disappointment to RUK if lost its coverage of the Royal track. The disappointment is countered by RUK picking up Irish racing from next year, a decision these scribblings have already criticised because of the reduced viewing figures, the additional cost for those wanting to continue to watch all of Irish racing and the concern as to how RUK will fit everything in.
But Ascot moving to what will be Sky Racing would be a welcome move, in the short-term at least. More people would be able to watch racing from the prestigious venue which is exposure that the sport overall would benefit from.
But long-term it would be dangerous for anyone to think that the current ‘free-to-view’ rights held by ITV would be beneficial to racing if they moved to Sky Racing should they make an attractive offer.
It would cut off millions of potential viewers from the sport with consequences for betting revenue and subsequent funding.
If ITV are keen to maintain their involvement with the sport and announcing coverage of Sandown’s evening fixture featuring the Brigadier Gerard more than suggests they are, it’s where those negotiating the media rights should do the deal.