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19 January 2022

Exploring racing’s outreach to young people

“With fierce competition for young people’s attention – what odds racing passing them by?”

The latest episode in Racing Together’s free webinar series explored how the horseracing industry can better engage the next generation of fans, racegoers and staff. It highlighted some of the key challenges but also some of the exciting initiatives already being pursued to broaden the sport’s appeal.

TV presenter and freelance journalist, Sally Ann Grassick hosted the webinar and was joined by an expert panel of guests: Arvin Chadee (a recent graduate of both the National Horseracing College and the Godolphin Flying Start programme); Samantha Martin (school pupil and amateur journalist); Tim Williams (ITV Racing Producer/Editor), and Elaine Burke (Industry Education and Training Coordinator for Horseracing Ireland).

On the right path

The panel gave an upbeat assessment of current work and how the horseracing industry is already making steps to engage young people and bring new audiences to the sport, both through digital channels and at racing’s venues.

Emerging technologies and the Covid-19 pandemic have had a profound impact on how and when young people access information. An Ofcom report in 2021 found that as many as 95% of children are using social media by the age of 15, with almost three quarters of 15 to 24-year olds reporting that they watched short video content online every day during the first Covid-19 lockdown period.

Keep pace and keep it simple

Tim discussed the importance of racing knowing what platforms young people are using and then ensuring that they have a good offering from the sport on them all. Both Samantha and Sally Ann referred to the unique appeal of horseracing’s equine stars in engaging a young audience, with more online content being produced by those working in racing since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The panellists drew upon their personal experiences within racing and top of the list for many of them was the need to dispel misconceptions, explain basic concepts of racing, and ensure jargon-busting is taking place, so that racing is quickly accessible to young people from all backgrounds.

From an Irish perspective, Elaine explored the wide range of careers available within the horseracing and breeding industries, and Arvin concurred that the skills learnt through the various training courses on offer can open doors around the world for young people. As Arvin quoted, ‘You enter the racing industry because of the horses, but you stay for the people’.

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The panel concluded that horseracing could learn from other sports, including Formula 1, cricket, and the NFL, that have adapted their formatting and shareable content base to the ever-changing environment to attract new audiences. It is hoped that this webinar will plant the seed and encourage more people and organisations to consider how they might encourage young people to get involved in this unique and exciting sport.

Industry support is vital

Audience feedback is a key part of the all the webinars and comments from those who joined on the day illustrated that the topic was relevant to their roles and that the discussion can help to inform next steps:

“Very good webinar – lots of ideas and the participants should be used to promote the industry more as they were so enthusiastic.”

“I thought it was really interesting to hear the points the panellists made. Thanks to everyone involved.”

“Another really good discussion.”

“This is the first one I have joined, and it was interesting stuff, panellists were very good.”

Click here to listen to the Podcast or catch up with other webinars from the series.

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The next episode, entitled “The enduring power of racehorses to help people – exploring the horse-human connection” will be hosted by Sally Ann Grassick on Thursday 10th February at 12.30pm. Register your place free here.

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