Well cover me with eggs and flour and bake me for 40 minutes. It seems that the horseracing industry have actually heeded some of CalvinAyre.com’s invaluable advice.
Following our lengthy study into the state of the sport , Racing Enterprises Ltd, the cross-industry body that operates as the commercial arm of British horse racing, has clearly followed our pointers – well, one or two of our pointers – to try and bring the sport of kings into the 21st century.
After talking at length with quangos, industry insiders and Joe Bloggs, the Racing For Change (RFC) project has drafted a ten-point list of changes to be implemented at a forthcoming weekend trial in the coming year.
Undoubtedly the most controversial of the changes is the welcome introduction of decimal odds – which was proposed in this column last month. As was mentioned at the time, Britain went metric some 39 years ago so sticking with fractional odds makes little sense.
“The current fractional odds – the meat and drink of established punters – link back to the days of pounds, shillings and pence,” reads an RFC statement. “”However, fractional odds are alien to young punters and betting exchange players, who grew up in the decimal age.”
Nigel Roddis, who began work as development director for betting with RFC this week, will be responsible for implementing the project’s suggestions, which will enjoy a test run at a weekend yet to be decided, and is determined to drag racing back to the forefront of British sport.
“Many people and agencies will need to be on board, from the bookmakers and the broadcasters to the media,” said Roddis. “But we’re very keen to trial the initiative, because it hits one of our key strategies, of making betting on horse racing more relevant and up-to-date.
“We want to reach out to a wider customer base and maximise their involvement. Part of the exercise will be to demystify some of the elements, of which fractional odds is one.”
Roddis added: “Racing generally has not been very good at trying out new things, probably for fear of failing or being ridiculed for trying. But we should be big and bold enough to try, provided ideas fit into the overall strategy, because only then will we know what works and what doesn’t.”
Amen to that Nigel. Horseracing is a fine sport with great traditions but it has also become a tad stuck in the mud over the years and is running the risk of becoming evermore elitist if it is not made more accessible.
Younger generations needs to have their interest pricked by the sport because if they don’t start going to the races the sport will eventually die out for good.
Among RFC’s other new initiatives which were suggested by this column are larger saddlecloth numbers and measures to heighten the media profile of jockeys.
The ten-point plan doesn’t quite cover all bases – where is Francesca Cumani? – but it’s a promising start.
Racing For Change initiatives
1. Trial of decimal odds at several race meetings over one weekend in spring 2010.
2. Funded media training for jockeys and trainers, together with an appearance fee budget set aside for non-racing media work.
3. All jockeys and trainers to be listed on race cards by their first names and surnames.
4. The outcome of photo finishes to be displayed on screen at the same moment as the judge’s announcement. Saddlecloth numbers will be larger to improve visibility.
5. Race names to be simplified and racecourse announcements to be modernised.
6. On-course bookmakers encouraged to offer standard each way terms and enhanced customer service via agreed minimum service standards.
7. Racecourse initiatives to improve the enjoyment and understanding of a day at the races for both new and regular racegoers, linked to a new independent quality assessment scheme.
8. The establishment of a new free membership club for younger adults that will offer discounted admission to many racecourses and shares in several racehorses.
9. A new website launched to promote horse racing to new and novice customers.
10. A central PR campaign from January to promote racing more effectively to a wider audience.