Horse racing jumps at commercial opportunities
Published: 11th Dec 2011 17:29:23
British horse racing is going through a period of change, one which offers the industry the chance to jump forward towards a better future.
Despite some misgivings about the final figure, the financial levy that the bookmaking industry must pay the sport has been negotiated for another year.
Horse racing also continues on many measures to be the second biggest sport in the UK, after football, and remains a massive employer and a massive generator of revenues for the Treasury.
It also hosts a series of events that are embedded in the national consciousness, including the Cheltenham Festival, Grand National meeting, the Derby Festival, and Royal Ascot.
And organisers hope that the newly-run British Champions Series, "the best of the flat season" featuring six of the top seven courses, will also become equally well-known.
Meanwhile racing is available as never before; on commercial and residential pay TV, in licensed betting offices, terrestrial TV, bookmakers online, online IPTV, iPad and iPhone.
"I would say it is a sport on the up," says Simon Bazalgette, chief executive of the Jockey Club, the largest commercial group in British horse racing.
"Racing is very good at... focusing on the negative, but if we step back and look at what's going on, there are a number of good issues.
"We are growing cash revenues, media revenues and attendances. TV viewing is going up. There are not many sports that can say that."
Mr Bazalgette, 50, is probably the best powerful person in British racing, having entered the industry in 2004 when he joined satellite broadcaster Racing UK.
The Jockey Club, which he heads, is the largest racecourse group in the UK by courses, fixtures, attendances, prize money contributions and revenue.
And Mr Bazalgette said he cautiously welcomes the levy agreement this year, which will see bookmakers put up to £72.4m into the sport next year.
The British Horse Racing Authority, the official governing body of British horse racing, has said the payment is too low, and Mr Bazalgette admits: "It is still a long way down from where the numbers have been in previous years."
But he adds: "It has reversed the trend and has a level of underpinning that wasn't there before, when it was £10m to £20m off.
It is one of the key targets to get more prize money going into the sport, to keep that growth going”
"It wasn't everything we wanted, it could have been better, but hopefully we can build on it.
"We can put more money into the race programme next year, which is good for everybody."
That, he says, means extra money that can be put into prize money which will help with the problems of small racing field sizes, which are unattractive to gamblers.
Prize money has been further boosted by a recent deal with betting exchange Betfair, which is giving £250,000 to grassroots racing in 2012 via the Jockey Club's racecourses.
The cash is being used as prize money, on top of the Jockey Club's own £15.7m record contribution this year.
"It is one of the key targets to get more prize money going into the sport, to keep that growth going," says Mr Bazalgette,
One area where Mr Bazalgette has felt more could be done is in the field of sponsorship.
Some big names are already in the sport, include John Smith beer sponsoring the Grand National, Investec sponsoring the Derby, and Quipco the British Champions Series.
And the hope is that more commercial partners come on-board over the next four to five years.
"We are trying to bring racing up to scratch," says Mr Bazalgette.
"Our first corporate partner is Jaguar. There is very little sponsorship in that deal, it is about exposing our partners to Jaguar."
And last week the Jockey Club announced it had signed a three-year agreement for Thomson Sport to become its official travel partner.
The new partnership will see Thomson develop travel packages for some of the most popular racing fixtures staged at The Jockey Club's 14-strong portfolio of racecourses.
"Working with the right partners can help us to broaden our sport's appeal and keep growing," says Mr Bazalgette.
As well as major racing events and media income, a sizeable chunk of Jockey Club revenues come from non-racing activities, such as music nights, conferences and events.
At Sandown course there is the Surrey Hall Exhibition Hall, which is suitable for corporate entertainment, conferences, pr wedding receptions, and have the monies made there come from non-racing.
Epsom Downs course, home to the Derby, is another venue where sizeable revenues are garnered through use of the track's exhibition hall.
At the latter, where there are only 12 race meetings a year, it is important to bring in these non-racing revenues, and, as well as owning a hotel on the site, the course also hosts music concerts.
"We have something to appeal to everybody at our racing and music events," says Mr Bazalgette, referring to the events which are held across its racecourses, from smaller venues such as Carlisle to larger courses like Newmarket.
"This year we had 300,000 people go to these events," says former media mogul Mr Bazalgette.
Acts included Tom Jones, Blondie, Beach Boys, Scouting for Girls, Texas, the Wanted, Westlife, and Peter Andre.
Other initiatives include expanding horse racing's already extensive media coverage on different platforms, such as iPads.
The sport is fortunate in already owning its own pay TV channel, and having a national daily paper, the Racing Post, dedicated to the sport.
And Mr Bazalgette points to the nine million viewers who watched the Grand National race in 2011, more, he says, than for the FA Cup Final.
Now racing has launched an online gambling application called the Icard Predictor, which ties in with televised coverage on Racing UK, and is, says Mr Bazalgette, is "as reliable as any other tipster".
Meanwhile, a loyalty scheme has recently been launched which allows purchases at 350 retailers - such as Amazon, Halfords, Tesco and Marks and Spencer - to build up points which can then be used on racing visits.
"It is about getting someone who comes once or twice a year to come more often," says Mr Bazalgette.
However, challenges remain, and not just arguments about what the size of the UK gambling levy should be.
"One of the key things is that we are competing with racing in Ireland and France, with all betting money in France going back into racing," says Mr Bazalgette.
"That is why we have to make make our races a real event from a consumer point of view."
At 17:04:48 in EnglandPolice have apologised for saying they were too busy to deal with a pub theft even though the landlord knew the suspect was near to a police station.
At 17:01:41 in SportBournemouth midfielder Eunan O'Kane has signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2017.
At 16:48:29 in ScotlandPassenger numbers at Scotland's three main airports rose last month, according to new figures.
At 16:48:14 in SportAlly McCoist insists he is more focused on winning the League One title by beating Airdrieonians on Wednesday than fearing for his job amid criticism.
At 16:47:17 in SportTamworth have confirmed the signing of Wrexham midfielder Kevin Thornton on an emergency loan after receiving international clearance.
At 16:45:57 in EnglandA man has been airlifted to hospital with severe burns to his face after an incident at a garage in Hertfordshire.
At 16:45:43 in SportIn a world where swagger and confidence are a necessity, Richard Kilty beat his fist to his chest like a super-charged Tarzan as he celebrated becoming 60m World Indoor champion. Undaunted and self-assured, he looked like a champion sprinter.
At 16:43:57 in HeadlinesUgandan rights activists and politicians have filed a legal challenge to overturn a tough anti-gay law condemned by Western donors.
At 16:43:08 in EnglandDomestic abuse charity Safer will take over the running of the Guernsey Women's Refuge as part of moves to improve the service.
At 16:42:57 in HeadlinesMichelle Bachelet, 62, has been sworn in as the president of Chile, her second time in office.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2011. Horse racing jumps at commercial opportunities [Online] (Updated 11th Dec 2011)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/209581/Horse-racing-jumps-at-commercial-opportunities [Accessed 11th Mar 2014]
News In Other Categories
Ugandan rights activists and politicians have filed a legal challenge to overturn a tough anti-gay law condemned by Western donors.
Mobile phone footage of a woman's hair being burnt and shaved was kept as a trophy, the High Court has heard.
Passenger numbers at Scotland's three main airports rose last month, according to new figures.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
Uefa has begun disciplinary proceedings against SSC Napoli after hundreds of Swansea City fans missed the start of their Europa League match in Naples last month.
I interviewed Bob Crow many times. And he wasn't actually at all like his public image.