Horse racing may have been a popular pastime in the UK for centuries now, but that doesn’t mean the sport can afford to rest on its laurels and take future participation for granted. Of the many issues racing faces in the 21st century – funding problems and fixture congestion to name just two – possibly the most important to the long-term viability of the sport is the question of how to attract new fans.
Never has the competition for entertainment spend been so great as it is in the 21st Century. In addition to other live sporting events, racing must also compete with the ever-expanding array of digital entertainment which has sparked an increasing number of leisure hours being spent indoors – a trend which is particularly prevalent among the youth. In such an environment, racing must be proactive in attempting to stand out from the crowd. Encouragingly, the sport is in the process of grabbing the bull by the horns.
The ditching of strict dress codes at a number of tracks seems one smart move into the modern era – helping to ward off the elitist or stuffy accusations often levelled at the sport. That change may help, but the most eye-catching sign of progress has been the recent introduction of the Qipco British Champion Series Club 26.
What is Club 26?
The aims of the club are perhaps best summed up by Qipco director Sheikh Fahad bin Abdullah Al Thani, who stated, “We’re passionate about attracting young people to horseracing as future fans and participants, and are very proud to launch Club 26 before the Guineas festival,” and, “We have lots of exciting plans for the club and hope it educates and encourages more 18 to 26-year-olds, who are key to the future of this sport, to come racing.”
This completely free-to-join new initiative is available to anyone aged between 18 and 26 and aims to both make a trip to the races more affordable and add to the overall experience. Discounted race days at the Newmarket Guineas Festival and the British Champions Day at Ascot were the headline opening offers, with proposed behind-the-scenes tours and race-day previews amongst the other benefits reported to be in the pipeline.
The initial ticket offer saw all club members granted access to the Guineas meeting for just £10, with that price mark also set to be in place for the Qipco British Champions Series at Ascot in October. To put that price in perspective, the cheapest standard entry for British Champions Day is currently set at £30 – meaning Club 26 members will save an impressive 66.67% on the entry price. £10 incidentally also compares very favourably with other sporting events. Taking the Premier League as an example, even at rock-bottom club Southampton, a match ticket will set you back somewhere between £25 and £70. For younger sports fans, this deal may provide just the incentive needed to come racing.
Which Meetings are Included?
All 26 meetings which feature one or more British Champions Series contests are included in the offer – representing the very best of what British racing has to offer. Kicking off with the Guineas meeting in May, and running through to Champions Day in October, the full list of fixtures is as follows:
- Newmarket Guineas Festival – Newmarket 6th-7th May
- Yorkshire Cup Day – York 19th May
- Lockinge Meeting – Newbury 20th May
- Epsom Derby Meeting – Epsom Downs 2nd-3rd June
- Royal Ascot – Ascot 20th-24th June
- Coral-Eclipse Day – Sandown Park 8th July
- July Meeting – Newmarket 14th-15th July
- King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes – Ascot 28th July
- Glorious Goodwood – Goodwood 1st-3rd August
- Ebor Meeting – York 23rd-25th August
- Betfair Sprint Cup – Haydock 9th September
- St. Leger Meeting – Doncaster 15th-16th September
- Royal Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes – Newmarket 7th October
- Qipco British Champions Day – Ascot 21st October
That’s quite an enticing menu, including all five British Classics, and granting the chance to see some of the true superstars of the game in the flesh, at some of the finest racecourses in the land. The exact details regarding the offers available at all fixtures are yet to be announced but will appear on the official Club 26 website and be communicated to members when finalised.
Racepass 24 Also Worth A Look
Discounted racing entertainment doesn’t begin and end with Club 26. Many individual tracks provide deals for younger racegoers, and the Jockey Club offers a wide-ranging offer through the free-to-join Racepass 24 initiative.
Whilst not covering quite so wide an age range as Club 26, this incentive offers half-price tickets to the 340+ annual race days provided by the Jockey Club – including the Grand National Meeting at Aintree, and the mighty Cheltenham Festival
For those lucky enough to fall into the required age brackets, these deals offer great value to both existing fans, and those looking to experience the thrill of a day at the races for the very first time.