Figures released today by the Racecourse Association reveal that 2010 was another bumper year for racecourse attendance. The number of people going racing across the country rose again for the second consecutive year, with average daily attendances up 3.4%. Had it not been for the inclement weather at the end of the year, attendances would have hit their highest since 2004.
Whilst other sports have seen a fall in gate receipts in 2010, racing has maintained its appeal as an attractive day out. This figures show a total rise in racecourse attendance of 0.9%, despite a drop in the number of fixtures being staged. This good news will be welcomed across the industry in the light of dwindling Levy income and a drop in the amount of corporate sponsorship and hospitality that racecourses are seeing.
Positive figures appear across the board, for both the larger and smaller courses, with Bath seeing almost 17% more people through their gates, whilst York saw a rise of 11%. Britain's newest racecourse, Ffos Las, showed an increase of just under 20%, proving that the appetite for quality racing in Britain is getting stronger and stronger.
Along with a wealth of competitive racing, many courses have been taking the opportunity in 2010 to broaden the entertainment on offer, hosting concerts and themed days to draw in the crowds. In August, a concert by the Irish boy band Westlife sold out Newbury Racecourse to cap an excellent day's racing.
Earlier, in April, the industry, under its Racing for Change banner, initiated the first ever 'week of free racing' with nine courses, including Ascot and Goodwood, allowing the public in at no cost. This promotion proved highly successful, attracting an extra 40,000 customers through the gates (compared to the previous year's attendances). Research showed that over 60% of these racegoers were new to the sport.
Many of the 60 UK courses have also been actively marketing their fixtures to a broader audience and working hard to make sure that visitors have a memorable leisure experience. The Racing for Change project has been placing particular emphasis on demystifying the sport for novice racegoers and promoting the human and equine stars more effectively, both at the tracks and through the media.
Stephen Atkin, Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association commented, 'I am delighted to see these figures, it is a vindication of the hard work being done behind the scenes on Britain's racecourses to attract customers, especially those new to the sport. It is a shame that the bad weather in December stopped us from beating the previous high of 2004, but it lays down the marker for the Racecourses in 2011 to maintain these high standards'.