Sunday, July 04, 2010

Racing in a recession

The lead story in Thursday's Racing Post outlined the British Horseracing Authority's plans to axe around 250 meetings from the 2011 fixture list in response to falling income from the Levy Board. Such a move will bring plenty of worries to a number of courses, with Saturday's Morning Line mentioning particular fears for the future of Kempton, Wolverhampton and Ffos Las. A report in Friday's South Wales Echo was more upbeat about the Welsh track's future while Bob Davies, clerk of the course at Ludlow, played down fears about Ludlow's fixtures in the an interview with the Shropshire Star. Having said that, attendances and betting turnover at the recent Royal Ascot meeting held up reasonably well; some commentators had talked about thinking the unthinkable and allowing race sponsorship at next year's meeting but that now seems less likely.

All of which brought to mind a review Mike Atherton wrote in The Times a couple of weeks ago of a recently published book, A Last English Summer by Duncan Hamilton. The author takes up the theme of the rapid pace of change in the sport that he loves - cricket. The changes are coming thick and fast, they're not always for the best and those changes tend to be driven by the harsh realities of participating in sport when the commercial world is on the brink of recession. Traditionalists like Hamilton look at their sport, see the passing of a way of life and express unashamed sadness at the passing of those old ways.

What struck me in particular was that racing faced similar issues - the work of the Racing For Change initiative came to mind. In a nutshell the message appears to be - enjoy the old ways now for they are likely to disappear. Change has to be embraced; failure to do so will lead to oblivion.

Of course, in the old days I could have provided a direct hypertext link to Mr Atherton's well-written review but The Times, operating in the commercial world, has taken the decision to introduce charges for its online content.

Like it or not, the money talks.

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