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20 April 2018

Racecourses inspired by Racing Together Masterclass

The Racing Together Masterclass at Warwick racecourse on 17th April was the meeting point for a range of courses keen to learn from each other about the benefits and opportunities of community engagement. The packed programme featured 11 speakers from across racing and also included an inspiring contribution from the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, who were on hand to give a perspective from another sport.

Racing charity Trustee and Chair of the Racing Together Action Group, Morag Gray charted the rapid progress made to unite the sport’s support of its communities within a recognisable and representative initiative. She was confident that with the new staff resource and social media platforms of Racing Together that racing’s image will become synonymous with a permanent commitment to community engagement.

Caroline Davies representing co-hosts, The Racecourse Association set the scene for the day by emphasising the cultural importance of racecourses to their localities and how they possess the assets to be seen as good neighbours. The BHA’s Corporate Affairs Manager Ross Hamilton then laid out practical steps and some obvious benefits of communicating racecourses’ activity to local politicians and councillors. The simple message: Get to know your local MP or SMP and invite them to a day.

Taking steps to assimilate and, in some cases, to build bridges with the community, was a key objective of Warwick’s community engagement, as outlined by General Manager Andre Klein. His presentation, which highlighted the need for 100% buy-in from staff, drew a generous response from the room. A mixture of simple common sense steps supported by more creative initiatives gave everyone ideas to take away.

“I was pleased I chose to go, as the day had powerful delivery, sensible subject matters and we left with a sense of taking on board a number of crucial tit bits, that would be useful in developing a community programme,” concluded Patrick Masterson, Managing Director at Newton Abbot.

Learning from the experiences of another sport was high on the agenda during the planning of this follow-on Masterclass to the first event in 2016. The Leeds Rhinos Foundation is the charity entwined with this famous rugby club and is the largest of its type with 40,000 beneficiaries in the community. Commitment and active involvement from current star players has been crucial in building trust in the brand, and in turn local demand for a range of services in support of physical and mental wellbeing. The club’s Foundation is now delivering direct health care in scale, whether aimed at weight management, dementia or social isolation and loneliness – services that are succeeding owing to a community that trusts its local sports team.

“The whole ethos of horseracing, just like rugby league is built around communities. We demonstrated how our cultures, values and ethos can reach out to the community and them to us. Racing has communities coming through its door and I don’t see why our work can’t be replicated by another sport,” said Dan Busfield, Head of Partnerships and Development.

The current debate on banning certain plastic products was picked up during Kirstin McEvoy’s fascinating insight into the challenges and payoffs of Going Green. The Jockey Club’s Sustainability & Corporate Social Values Manager may not have approved of all the lightbulbs she switched on in the minds of her audience, but she can be satisfied that none of the delegates were left in any doubt that savings on energy and a meaningful contribution to improving the environment were well within reach. Communicating green credentials and meeting the public’s changing expectation on racing’s role were key messages.

The potential of the Racing Together partnership to pool resources as the best way for the sport to reach beyond its usual constituents was highlighted by Mark Turner, Chief Executive of community group Flying Futures, which is a part instigator in the youth employment programme Take The Reins. Mark expressed the appetite of young people without the scaffold of current work or education to see what racing has to offer, and the willingness of the sport to welcome them. Speaking alongside Mark was Adam Harman, who as Racing Together’s Community Engagement Manager is tasked with finding and connecting these type of initiatives with the mutual needs of the sport, and its varied opportunities.

Lingfield Park has for some time recognised the two-way value of such work and PR & Partnerships Manager Debbie Haye gave practical examples of how the racecourse has benefited from engaging with national partners such as youth charity, Active Communities Network.

The Masterclass concluded with expert insights into the changing expectations and tactics employed by brands, and what racing may now need to consider when approaching them for support. Putting the needs of the brand first and demonstrating to them some shared community values, were just two areas covered by consultant Will Collinson. Delegates were then asked to link together the ideas and challenges of the day to come up with some specific ideas with which to approach brands. The imaginative use of unique indoor and outdoor spaces at all courses was a popular choice.

The 2018 Racing Together Masterclass was designed to support and inform the different journeys racecourses undertake with their communities – both those who have already found some momentum and those planning some first steps – the message to all is to keep going.

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