Saturday, 22 July 2017

A DISOLVING AND DISLOVING FAN BASE




For those not getting that old buzz from horse racing anymore they may accept that it's all just part of a natural course from over familiarity when your passions become dulled for an interest or hobby that was once an obsession. This could be the definitive answer if the same was happening with life long fans of other sports.

On the contrary though this does not appear to be a pattern surfacing in the other sporting spheres. The same dimmed feeling felt by fans towards their sport is not a recurring theme and neither is it prevalent with listless racing fans towards their second and third sports which they have also been lifelong fans of.

Golf for example is one of many rival sports were fan enthusiasm is as fervent as it's ever been.
The energy was palpable when I visited Royal Birkdale for the Wednesday practice.

For those of us who watch this sport week in week out on Sky Sports it's very rare that the stars come to your area. For all we know these characters, many with strange sounding names, could be a result of computer animation and may not even exist.It's really odd when you see them close up and have it confirmed that they are real beings.

Admittedly betting has grown massively on this sport but for those who pack the event and have a genuine love for it the blistered feet and salt air sunburn is worth enduring to see the marquee performers close up. There is no equivalent close to the action feel that racing can offer.

Many took advantage of the rule permitting photographs ( as per above) to be taken on practice days. Indeed I have often felt when I've attended play days at Opens in the past at Birkdale, Hoylake and Lytham, that I'd nothing to cement memories with the strict no photo rule in operation at all points of the course including none playing areas.

Making comparisons between Golf and Racing we can cite for the kudos of racing that a very real danger element exists. From the top of my head I can think of three jockeys who I have seen in the flesh riding and who have later died from injuries received from a fall during a race. Yet we don't seem to afford these men and woman the same level of respect as their equivalents in less dangerous sports.

Maybe this is because of racing being interwoven with betting and a certain degree of corruption that comes with it. And being cynical you could add that there are more dubious characters involved and a requirement across the board from the varying factions to fleece you of your money in as many ways possible and keep as much as they can for themselves.Sounds harsh but that is how many view horse racing.

Cricket is another sport that has been tainted by betting related incidents though it survives independently without it and the facility to bet on it damages rather than embellishes it. It has been undergoing a makeover for a while now. The tweaks and touch overs are still in process but this a sport in rude health that is simply taking action to maintain the present fan base and secure a future one.

The old timers may grimace at the T20 format. A boisterous crowd, not shy to air feelings and not slow in consuming ale and many without the concentration span to watch a day of a county game. But overall they behave themselves, create good healthy banter and most important of all as the TV cameras focus on them they are undeniably absorbed by what is happening out on the field.

Contrast this to a pop concert evening at a racecourse. For starters they are there for the pop concert and not the racing. They gather near the stage to get a prime position oblivious to the racing taking place wishing time by and hoping the next race is the last one. Even more pertinent is the sight of them still arriving as the last race is being run.

Racegoers needing a fast exit and escaping before the last race often meet head on with the concert goers on their way out. They would have had to endure a price hike for an additional service they will not be using. And as for the attendance stats well, these music lovers with bad taste will be classed as 'racegoers'.

There is nothing wrong with racecourses using their facilities for other events. But to allow a 'race meeting' to ride on the back of the other event and paint a false picture of  'racing fans'  visiting for the racing then stopping on to enjoy a concert is crafty and downright false.

Anyone turning up for a T20 crickets match will be watching the fare offered to them and many will have enjoyed themselves, will go again and will take a wider in interest in the sport. Those that could have in the past considered Test Cricket a bit too mundane for them may now just take a new born interest.

Say for example they have watched Yorkshire in the shortest form of the game and this during a gap without a test.Thus Root, Bairstow and Plunkett, could have been playing. They'll now see them same players on the TV in a test match. Interest is heightened and what had been such a bore for them now becomes an appealing distraction.

This is not happening in racing. There is no new fresh faced audience being smitten by the sport. The emerging generations are well represented among the crowds at Birkdale. When racing is laid bare no such parallel fan base exists and gimmick events such as pop concert nights do not serve the sport and merely paper over the cracks.

1 comment:

  1. The nearest racing can get to t20 is surely a race every 20 mins,as mooted by Simon Holt amongst others..I could see this working,a card full of sprints to keep the crowd engaged..at least it would be all about the racing and not artificial add ons,plus it could be the most realistic way of engaging the young racegoer to the sport with a possibility of taking a deeper interest further along the line.

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