There was much rejoicing last month when the Racecourse Association revealed that racecourse attendances on Saturdays showed a marked increase in 2017. Furthermore, Sunday attendances rose by a healthy nine per cent.
While all that sounds like good news, Britain’s midweek audiences showed a dip. The top weekday meetings are fine; Cheltenham, Royal Ascot, Chester and York all get big crowds. But what about the midweek bread and butter fixtures? Some might call them the grassroots of the sport.
Their decline is not surprising given the cost and the quality on offer. Let’s look at three days next week. Plumpton on Monday costs £18. Lingfield on Wednesday is £21. Fontwell Park on Thursday costs £19 and that’s if booking in advance. The tracks will of course point out that you can save money by buying tickets in advance. But that is not always practical. In any case, buying tickets in advance just reduces the cost from extortionate to very expensive.
Reduced costs would boost attendances
There are those who will tell you that going to tracks in other countries during the week is either free or costs next to nothing. However, that is not a fair comparison because those countries have tote monopolies and thus are a different business model. It’s like comparing apples with oranges.
I don’t expect British tracks to offer free admission, although that’s just what Towcester does, and very successful it is too. But the vast majority of midweek race meetings are overpriced and the cost could and should be reduced. By doing so, more people would go.
It’s a shame because there are some good midweek cards if you seek them out. Most, though, offer poor quality fare. Would you turn up on the day and pay more than £20 for an all-weather card at Lingfield Park next week? I know I wouldn’t.