Racegoers Give Views on the Fixture List
In our Winter Magazine we aked members to share thier views on the Fixture List with us, in our Spring magazine we featured one of the letters we recived but as we dind't have the space to feature it properly we have made the full letter, along with a reply form the RCA race planning department available here, we've alreday had some letters in reply so keep them coming - The Racegoers Club can only put racegoer's views forward if we hear from you!
Mr Bryan Bird
In the latest newsletter you asked for feedback concerning the fixture list. When I first started to go racing I used to look forward to the publication of this, nowadays it sends me into despair. There are too many meetings, too much low quality racing and the fixture list is heavily geared to the bookmaking industry rather than race goers. There are ridiculous fixtures clashes and here are a few examples in 2015:
4 May: Windsor and Kempton Park on the same afternoon.
18 July: Haydock Park and Chester.
7 August: Brighton and Lingfield Park.
25 August: Brighton and Fontwell Park.
5 Sept: Ascot and Kempton Park.
13 Oct: Huntingdon and Leicester, yet there is no meeting in the South.
Additionally, there are occasions were the Yorkshire courses stage two meetings in the same day e.g. 4 August with Catterick and Ripon both racing. I acknowledge that some of these examples are split between afternoon and evening meetings. However, race timings often overlap and if you were looking to attend two meetings in the same day, the likelihood is that you will miss at least one race.
There is too much poor quality all weather racing. I am not against this being staged in Winter, as originally intended, but why do we need 6 of these meetings in the first week of June? Attendance figures are available from the internet and this shows how unpopular these meetings are with 'crowds' in the low hundreds commonplace.
There are lots of examples of fixtures not being evenly split around the country i.e. on 27 December, there are 3 meetings in the South but nothing in the Midlands.
I think that the fixture list needs to be fully reviewed with the number of meetings reduced and meetings spread more evenly. Perhaps this is something the Racegoers Club can get involved with.
Dear Mr Bird
Many thanks for your email about the Fixture List process. In addition to being Chair of the Racegoers Club, my role at the RCA encompasses the fixture list and race planning process from the perspective of racecourses. We plan to share my insights and experience with the Club, and prompt more discussion of these topics to ensure RGC member views are heard.
I am sorry to hear of your issues and frustration with the present fixture list; I’ve taken your three key points and provide further explanation. I have not gone into great depth as they are all good topics for future articles in the newsletter - I hope this response prompts further discussion and questions from RGC members so we can continue the debate.
(i) Size of the Fixture List
There is undoubtedly more racing today than in the past, with both Flat and Jumping all year round activities. Our beloved sport supports a major industry which contributes £3.45 billion to the UK economy and provides 85,000 jobs. Any contraction would have knock on effects throughout racing, to all those who are reliant on it whether for employment, income or enjoyment.
Racegoers remain a vital income stream, and courses look to balance the requirements of all its customers in providing an annual fixture list. The needs of punters also play an important role, with the bookmaker’s criteria providing the framework which guides when racecourses can race. Additionally the payments racecourses receive through the Horserace Betting Levy and through media rights payments from betting companies is a significant element of racecourse income. This is especially true for the smaller courses who race predominantly midweek, and whose viability would be threatened without this support.
British racing is unique in the world in its diversity of tracks and businesses, across the length and breadth of the country, including many which are independently owned and run. Unlike other countries where racing benefits from substantial central funding or is centrally run, our courses have to be innovative and commercially focused to ensure they survive. Racecourse income is now the main contributor to prizemoney levels, and more fixtures also help fund the record £130m of prizemoney this year.
The examples you outlined of fixtures clashes and an uneven spread of fixtures across the country were very helpful, and the consultation group looking at the 2016 fixture list have used these and others in early discussions regarding the 2016 Fixture List. Interestingly many of the clashes we have looked at have been in place for several years and there is a mix of those that do seem to affect attendance and/or field sizes, and others that don’t. Clashes on the day are part of the problem, however there are also issues with the concentration of fixtures, for example with South West jump courses in late April.
The BHA’s ability to influence the scheduling of clashes has been limited following an investigation into fixture list competition by the Office of Fair Trading in the early part of the new millennium. This removed the previous rule which restricted race meetings taking part within a 50 mile radius of each other. Though no rule is in place, the reality for courses is that they will try to avoid clashes as they recognise they can cause issues and we hope to reduce the number of such clashes for 2016 and beyond.
(iii) All Weather Racing
Your letter also highlighted the amount of poor quality all weather racing. The recent All Weather Championships has been developed to dispel some long held beliefs about the all weather and to attract better quality horses to stay racing here, rather than be sold overseas or race abroad in the winter. It has had a noticeable impact on the quality of horses racing in the winter months, and many trainers now use maidens on the all weather as the starting point for their horses. A prime example is Toast of New York, who ended last year ranked the 9th best racehorse on international ratings.
Attendance figures will vary, and certainly given the volume of fixtures, the mid week winter fixtures will always find attendances challenging. However its less the surface than the frequency, as Finals Day attracted a modern day record to Lingfield, and other fixtures in more commercial slots do well such as Wolverhampton’s Saturday nights and Lingfield’s music nights.
Its fully appreciated that all weather racing does not have universal support, and the challenge for the sport is to change these perceptions. We will be asking the racecourses staging these fixtures to contribute to a future article, and will be asking for member questions and views on this specific issue.
Again thank you for taking the time to respond, and providing a number of interesting topics for future debate.