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David Armstrong RCA Racecourse Association 21 August 2019

Racing Together welcomes new Racecourse Association Chief Executive David Armstrong, who reflects on the trade body’s commitment to community engagement and the diverse and creative projects already being undertaken by racecourses nationwide.

Racing’s positive influence

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in some wonderful industries in my career: hospitality, food & beverage, rugby and now horseracing. Each of these have people and teamwork at their core, which has made the transition into this wonderful sport an enjoyable experience.

All major sports have a unique position in society to be a force for good and a positive influence in the lives of fans and colleagues alike. Horseracing is very much included in this – we welcome almost 6 million customers to a racecourse each year, employ tens of thousands of people across the country (including in remote local areas) and, thanks to Racing Together, we have a sport-wide platform to inspire and celebrate community engagement.

National programmes that can change lives

The Racecourse Association (RCA) has a vital part to play in supporting Racing Together and our member racecourses to promote community engagement. We can help create programmes that will be adopted by 59 racecourses and celebrate unique initiatives that deserve to be seen by a huge audience.

Taking the first point of national programmes, we have been working alongside Racing Together to develop a series of guidance documents on promoting the customer experience to those with hidden disabilities. Our team has compiled a research portfolio of best practice from within the sport and other sectors which will soon see us launch a national sunflower lanyard scheme, the aim of which is to promote racecourses as accessible venues and helping those who require additional support to feel very much at home.

Looking at some specifics, I’ve been amazed with some of the initiatives that have literally changed people’s lives. Last year’s RCA Showcase & Award winners Uttoxeter hosted a prostate cancer awareness day knowing that many of their customers would be classed as ‘at risk’ by the demographic of their database. Hundreds of men turned up for the test in a safe, familiar space and 75 were given a red warning, enabling preventative treatment to save lives.

Uttoxeter Racecourse
Queues to attend prostate cancer screening sessions at Uttoxeter

At Beverley, the racecourse worked with the British Deaf Association to host a deaf-friendly raceday. Sign language interpreters hosted a tour of the racecourse with Chief Executive Sally Iggulden and each race was accompanied by live sign language commentary. British Sign Language (BSL) is the fourth most used language in Great Britain and it’s important that as popular sporting venues racecourses adapt to cater for these customers. Alongside RaceTech, the RCA can help activate this with all racecourses.

Beverley sign language raceday
Beverley’s deaf-friendly raceday in action

No limit to creative work in the community

The power of sport can bring people together and help in so many ways. The RCA and Scottish Racing have recently teamed up with Drinkaware and Walking Football Scotland to transform Ayr Racecourse into a walking football pitch which saw four teams have a guided tour of the racecourse, compete in a tournament and have an all-important cup of tea afterwards. This initiative is designed to bring people together, combat loneliness and deliver health and wellbeing information in a friendly and supportive environment.

Scottish Racing Walking Football
The RCA, Scottish Racing and DrinkAware hosting walking football at Ayr earlier this year

Competition bound to be strong for Racing Together Award

We’re proud of the community engagement work that goes on across British racecourses and the sport as a whole and will continue to support Racing Together in any way we can. At this year’s RCA Showcase & Awards, our Community & CSR category, commonly the most-popular with racecourses, will be named as a Racing Together Award and we’re excited to see which ground-breaking initiatives are put forward.

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