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09 June 2020

Jayne Greenman, HR Director at Arena Racing Company reflects on her pride in colleagues’ team spirit – both on and off the racecourse.

I am grateful to have been given an opportunity by Racing Together to write about the incredible work which has gone on over the past few months behind the scenes in racing, culminating in the ‘behind closed doors’ return at Newcastle last week. The combined efforts once again prove that all the key stakeholders in the sport can and do come together so effectively when it counts the most.

I have worked in the industry for the last 11 years, doing what I love most, which is working alongside trusted colleagues in a tight knit Human Resources team. I help and support the many employees and staff working at ARC’s Racecourses and Greyhound Stadia (no one will let me anywhere near the four-legged participants, which is doubtless very wise).

I am also privileged to be the Racecourse Association’s representative Trustee for the education charity, Racing to School, which carries out vital grass roots work at racecourses across the country engaging the racegoers of the future; I know we are all looking forward to being able to continue that work as soon as is safe to do so. A quick plug for our new learning animation films that our Ambassador John Hunt kindly narrated – check them out on our website or see Richard Johnson’s children enjoying the activities while homeschooling below.

Overwhelming support and goodwill

So much has changed in the last in the last 12 weeks, it’s hard to quantify the affect it has had both on my own work and my colleagues. I have seen hardship; people struggling to make ends meet, which is heart breaking, and had many conversations about the emotional impact that not being in the workplace has had on a number of our employees and workers. The support of ARC’s Employee Assistance Programme, as well as the services provided by Racing Welfare have proved crucial to team members during this challenging time.

I have also seen people in work shouldering an increased workload, without complaint, and working more closely than ever with colleagues. The team spirit within our Company has been ever present, for example many of our groundstaff have worked exceptionally hard to ensure we could return to racing when needed. Where it hasn’t been necessary to be on-site, working from home and working flexibly has become the new normal and those still at work have embraced this wholeheartedly. I believe the pandemic is likely to have a significant impact on flexible working applications of the future, not just for our industry. Many employees have been given an opportunity to show just how productive they can be from their own homes, with the right support in place.  Like many other companies, we have embraced technology fully and have enhanced our communication channels as a result. 

At the start of lockdown, we created new social media groups and invited all our team members to join.  Our ability to inform and communicate as efficiently as possible has been key to engaging our entire workforce throughout the lockdown.  In general terms, I have felt the support and goodwill of those in our business and in the wider industry; since March we have been inundated with messages of support, thanks and positive encouragement about the future.

Juggling our business alongside Government advice

The impact of the suspension of racing had ramifications across the whole racing industry, and as a business based around racecourses, greyhound stadia, hotels and leisure, it obviously has had a huge impact on ARC.  Essentially, our revenue went to zero almost overnight, and there was a lot of work to do to support our own teams, as well as to interpret the various different areas of guidance that were being issued by the Government.

However, we were also aware that as a business with a footprint across the country, we are in a very special position to be able to offer support many of the communities in which our businesses are based, something I know our staff support.  Equally, knowing the nature of the fixtures we host across racecourses and greyhound stadia, the offer of free tickets to NHS and key workers was something that we could fairly easily accommodate and implement once we are allowed to welcome crowds back on site.  It’s a project that we will begin, in conjunction with a number of other racecourses, I’m sure, once we have a bit more operational capacity. We can’t wait to be able to thank those that have worked incredibly hard on behalf of us all.

Using our assets to target those in need

Supporting communities with emergency food underpinned our joint work with the Reuben Foundation, who were keen to help us use our supply chain and local connections to donate supplies in the most effective way possible.  Given the size and scope of our business, we are able to purchase food and other supplies in a relatively cost-efficient manner.  Add to this our close connection our venues have with their local Councils, and we were able to be flexible and offer exactly what was required in the local area.  Some of the six Councils that we worked with, for example, needed pre-packed boxes of kitchen and bathroom essentials that they could then distribute.  Others, with a different local need, wanted the supplies donated into their pre-existing box or food bank programme.  Luckily, the catering and procurement expertise that we have within the business, along with the financial backing of the Reuben Foundation, meant that we could accommodate all such requests and make sure that each Council was able to get exactly what they needed, in the way that they needed it. 

I am really proud of the way that the team worked on this project and so quickly rose to the challenge. 

Extra pressure to lead the comeback

It certainly feels that everyone across the racing world has really pulled together in making sure that behind closed doors racing started in the best possible manner, and that the Government and the wider world was able to see that we could return to work in a responsible manner.  I know that everyone across ARC is very proud of the way that the Newcastle team stepped up to meet the challenge of being the first racecourse back in action, and feedback from everyone involved in their first four fixtures has been overwhelmingly positive.

I wasn’t on-site on the day but I was well briefed that David Williamson and his team put in a tremendous amount of work to make sure that the racecourse could meet all of the stringent criteria rightly laid down by the BHA. Again, our position as a group of racecourses was of huge benefit as the lessons learned from Newcastle were quickly shared with our other racecourses involved in that first week back. Great Yarmouth and Lingfield Park also worked so hard in the run-up and on the day of their return. David and colleagues were also very happy to speak at length with the RCA and colleagues at other racecourses, like Newmarket and Kempton Park, to share all of the things they had learned and to help make sure that they were armed with what we had learnt.

The feedback that I have received regarding racing ‘BCD’ is that it does feel strange working differently to how we’re all used to, but that essentially everyone who is back at work is pleased to be there; we are all focussing on making sure that we uphold the high operational standards set in the first week as we continue.

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