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10 February 2023

Resounding affirmation of community engagement’s positive value to racing’s future

Thursday 9 February at Ascot Racecourse

Over 120 guests and speakers from across the country and the sport of horseracing converged on Ascot Racecourse yesterday for the inaugural Racing Together Industry Day. The event – supported by The Levy Board, the Racing Foundation, Racecourse Association and Ascot Racecourse –  was designed to explore ‘why community engagement is at the heart of racing’s future strategy’ and drew upon some of its own diverse leaders in the field, supported by invaluable insight from football, cricket and the responsible gambling sector.

Around 60 separate organisations, including 20 charities were represented at one of British sport’s most iconic venues.

British Horseracing Authority Chair, Joe Saumarez Smith set out the vision of the sport’s governing  body to lay the foundation to help the industry achieve greater things. On the value of community engagement, he said: “We all have an opportunity to share our stories and to work harder to inform wider recognition from Government and MPs.”

Representing football and the Premier League, Andy McLaren shared the experiences of the football family, which is supported by a vast charity network comprising over 6,000 staff across the Leagues. Together they support highly effective programmes, such as Premier League Kicks, which a young Marcus Rashford benefited from in his school days. “There is a high-performance sustainable bedrock to our work through assessing the charities in the same way,” said Andy.

If Ascot symbolises high quality racing for the wider world, then Lord’s Cricket ground holds that same stature for its sport. Ricky Reynolds, Head of Community at Lord’s Cricket surprised many in the audience by mapping out the approach of the MCC’s programme as one that is ‘not obsessed with the sport.’ He said: “Half of our programmes have nothing to do with a bat and ball but are more about access to our spaces, such as the media centre and museum, where young people are engaged with maths and literacy. Local people are supported through employability programmes and a mental health partnership with the charity, MIND has allowed our team to do what we do best, to play an active role at an ultra-local level.”

York Racecourse’s successful Pride Raceday was showcased in a presentation from Harriet Rochester representing the racecourse, supported by Rachael Gowland from the EBF and Di Farrell-Thomas from Racing with Pride. A video was featured from their community partners, a local inclusive rugby team with previously no connection with racing, who then attended the day at York. The aim was to take authentic action building on the past success of Pride Month.

“Racing with Pride was giving visibility to a commitment within the industry,” said Rachael. “We all agreed that there was much greater value in starting something that can continue.”

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Representing the hosts, Racing to School Trustee Jacqui Greet closed the morning session alongside Jon Yates, Berkshire Community Foundation and Assunta Soldovieri, Sebastian’s Action Trust reflecting on some effective activity within the ‘Ascot Supports…’ community programme – a new sub-brand that the racecourse has embedded so successfully within its work since 2017.

EPIC Risk Management’s Mark Potter highlighted just some of racing’s opportunities to support and educate its workforce and customers around responsible gambling. The delegates were very moved as Mark shared his own lived experience of gambling harm, which spiralled to devastating effect during his days as a professional rugby player.

The day concluded with a rousing call to action from a panel comprising trainers Richard Phillips and Jo Foster, Park Lane Stables’ Founder Natalie O’Rourke MBE and aspiring jockey Louis Woolf, discussing the growth and future potential of National Racehorse Week, alongside Great British Racing’s Gabi Whitfield.

Gabi reported that 26 community events had attracted 800 participants last September and that 40% of the general public attendance of over 10,000, was new or occasional racegoers.

About Racing Together – click here to watch video

John Blake, CEO of Racing Together said: “We were so grateful to have been joined by such a knowledgeable and action-focused group of speakers and colleagues from across racing and other sports. It was encouraging to see representatives from our main funder, The Levy Board, so too the Racing Foundation, Ascot Racecourse Supports…, and the Racecourse Association engaging in the discussions as invested partners.

“So many of the delegates are themselves committing time and resources to work on improving the lives of racing’s communities, making the sport more relevant and valuable to an often circumspect, or even dismissive society.

“There was great optimism and urgency around the room yesterday and a clear answer to the question of whether community engagement should be at the heart of racing’s future thinking and planning.”


All delegates were surveyed for their feedback and among the comments were:

‘A brilliant selection of speakers and topics and hopefully gives the industry a lot to think about – especially the consistent message regarding the power of the collective to deliver national projects.’

‘It was a great day highlighting some of the wonderful work racing undertakes. The challenge now is to create awareness of these programmes to a wider audience.’

‘I found the overall programme engaging, with my main take away being that a long-term vision is essential and that projects need to be led by those that are passionate on the subject and given appropriate funding and resource to deliver.’
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