Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

London — Horse racing in England is on an "upward curve" but faces challenges in keeping both the traditionalists and the younger generation happy, a leading figure in the sport says.

Paul Fisher, CE of Jockey Club Racecourses, which is responsible for blue riband events such as the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National, said it was essential to maintain the centuries-old history and heritage of the "Sport of Kings".

Fisher said racecourses had introduced "funky food" and post-meeting concerts that had helped bring in younger people but the challenge was to transform them from social racegoers to racing fans.

"The great thing is we have a unique demographic in racing with a 55-45 male-female split," Fisher told the Leaders Week conference in London.

"Like every sport, we are chasing the younger fan and we have got to give the 20-to 30-year-olds what they want.

"So for instance last year after the Cheltenham Festival, we organised a nightclub. It is exactly what they want. Youngsters want cocktails and funky food and to dance afterwards. In the last few years, we have become the fifth-biggest rock promoter in the UK but we have got to keep racing at the heart of the story. We have to convert young social racegoers into fans."

Fisher is aware that racing has a particular terminology, which is not immediately accessible, hence the introduction of an app by the Jockey Club called Racing Explained.

"Racing is a difficult sport to get one’s head around," he said.

"For instance, people don’t know what a furlong [roughly 200m] means to a young audience so we have linked up with broadcaster ITV to help decode the sport, but again, you don’t want to fall into being accused of dumbing down the sport," Fisher said.

"I think racing is doing a really good job in bringing racing to the masses in the country. It is the second most attended sport in the country. Racing is on an upward curve."

AFP

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