LONDON (AFP) – Racing must engage the young through social media to ensure the ‘Sport of Kings’ attracts a fresh audience and source of revenue, says influential racing blogger Stephen Power.
Power, who attracted over 12,000 followers on Twitter in just 18 months with his views on racing, is impressed by the amount of young people attending race meetings.
But he said the feedback he got from them is while they enjoy going they didn’t feel they had a voice or were engaged.
Power, who won $18,000 when he was only 15 on a bet at the Cheltenham Festival which owing to his age his grandmother placed for him, said educating the young on the distinct terms used in racing, which leave many floundering, would be a start.
Racing is seen by some to be in decline – one of Power’s fellow panellists at the Betting on Sport conference said its audience was ageing and dying out.
Yet it attracts the second largest annual attendance in British sport of around 6 million people and is the second most bet on sport.
Power, 33, says there can be a rejuvenation of the fan base if racing makes a genuine effort
“When I go to Ascot for instance I am struck by how many young people are there,” he said.
“They have a genuine passion for the sport but they need to be educated on things like the race card, and be engaged through social media utilising Instagram, Twitter and the other platforms.
“Engage them and they will come back, lots of people who go racing feel they don’t have a voice but if racing authorities connect with them there are a lot of potential soldiers out there to come marching in through the gates.
“There is nothing like a day at the races and horse racing is a truly great sport.”
Will Lambe, executive director of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) the regulatory body for the sport, concurred that more could be done vis-a-vis educating those who came racing but were not at ease with the terms.
“Point taken with regards to educating people,” said Lambe.
“There is a lot of educating going on but it is piecemeal and not joined up.
“The attendances are great but how much is due to having a social day out or because they like the sport is an unknown.
“However, we are taking measures to make it more attractive to both punters and racegoers.
“There will probably be more evening meetings next year and for punters at the Cheltenham Festival the final fields will be known 48 hours before the race and not 24 as was the case.”
More evening meetings brought smiles to the faces of James Garmiston, CEO of EasyOdds.com, and Bernard Marantelli, CEO of Colossus Bets.
Garmiston said evening racing in Australia was doing very well and it was a growing sport there whilst Marantelli too felt the way English racing was scheduled made it less attractive than other countries.
“The United Kingdom struggles in terms of a time zone by comparison with others,” he said.
“Take Australia they have wall to wall coverage from 11 in the morning to nine at night as the racing travels across its various time zones.
“The same for the United States. However, here you can sometimes have five meetings all taking place at the same time in the day.”
Garmiston believes that the sport should also build up its personalities, equine and human and agreed with Power that social media should also be utilised to attract the young.
“Also run a sensible promotional campaign involving jockeys, trainers and the horses.
“Then you would have the perfect storm as is the case with other sports.”