You pays your money, or perhaps not
It’s a good job that earlier in the month we had the successful launch of the Dublin Racing Festival and last Saturday probably the best race of the season in the Betfair Ascot Chase, because it takes the mind off events surrounding the part money plays in the sport.
Indeed, it was on the eve of Leopardstown’s two-day spectacular that news broke that from next year Irish racing would transfer from At The Races to Racing UK.
Unless you derive income or revenue from Racing UK it’s a move that has no merit whatsoever.
Yes, there are people who prefer Racing UK’s coverage of the sport, but the fact that it means further cost to viewers if they want to continue to watch Irish racing is highly regrettable.
And just as regrettable were the comments on social media that Racing UK offer excellent value – only if it’s within your budget, otherwise it prices many out of the market. A point reflected in a number of twitter messages sent to The Racing Hub:
@Noelkel7577 (Noel Kelly): “it’s scandalous no regard for the followers of Irish racing. People won’t have the money to subscribe to Racing UK”
@Robertsdebi: “hitting the less well off again”
@seap1geon (Dundee Lancastrian): “a massive poke in the eye to all of us who can’t afford RUK”
@Nigey61 (Nigel Harrison): “not happy about this outcome, especially as Racing UK want £25 a month”
Racing UK have said they will not be adding an extra channel to accommodate their much-expanded portfolio (Chelmsford is also going their way), so it is justifiable to raise concerns as to how they will be able to fit everything in.
Whereas viewers with both specialist channels can currently choose what they want to watch, the potential split-screen alternative is highly unsatisfactory.
But the deal is done and those of us who follow the sport will have to make a decision on whether or not to spend more money to view Irish racing and then hope nothing comes off second-best.
Where people do want to spend more money but are thwarted, ie when bookmakers close their accounts, or restrict their stakes, or bar them from concessions, has long been a bone of contention.
That has now come under the scrutiny of a parliamentary committee and hopefully the layers, and in particular their bottom-line driven number-crunchers, will get the message that preventing people from having a bet can result in their disengagement from the sport, resulting in money lost to all.
At the same time, the terms and conditions of bookmakers offering incentives to open accounts have also been under the microscope where clarity rather than smoke and mirrors is the requisite order of the day.
Changes too in the way that betting is advertised on television during sports coverage are being implemented, with the urgency to place bets being removed from the message as is anything which trivialises gambling.
But it could have been worse – betting during televised sport could have been banned, but survives.
The warning signs are all there and it would do bookmakers well to heed them in the way they seek new customers and promote to existing ones as there are many with an agenda to see betting come under even greater restrictions.
How good it would be to see the major layers returning to the days when you could get a bet on to the stakes you wanted. Proper bookmaking.
It’s already been announced that with Trinity Mirror’s acquisition of the Express newspapers, only one reporter will be sent to football matches and report for all of the company’s papers. It will be interesting to see if coverage of racing is also scaled back.
When these scribblings reviewed a day’s racing in the daily papers last year, the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and Daily Star had 22 tipsters between them – maybe only the fittest will survive.
Indeed, there are contrasting fortunes at the moment between the Express and Mirror. Leading the Racing Post National Press Challenge, where every selection is ranked by a £1 bet at SP and expressed as a percentage of return on turnover, is The Scout for the Express with a return of 102.05%, whilst Newsboy of the Mirror languishes at the bottom of the table with 80.62%. Somebody might have to pull their socks up.