Horse racing is defying the economic downturn with a two per cent rise in attendances – which bodes well for the lucrative Cheltenham Festival in March.
A total of 5.2 million people have attended horse-racing meetings in 2009 so far, compared with 5.1 million in all of 2008, according to a report entitled Jump Racing Focus, Essentials of the Sport For Investors 2009-2010.
The research provides a timely boost for the West Midlands, ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, the jewel in the jump racing crown, which generates £50 million a year in extra spending in the surrounding areas.
This year it attracted 230,000 spectators, bringing in gate receipts of about £7 million and 10,000 hotel room bookings. In 2007 £1.2 million was withdrawn from on-course cash machines.
A report by Deloitte shows that racing makes a total economic impact of £3.4 billion and employs more than 100,000 people across the UK.
Nic Coward, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), said the industry played an important role in rural communities.
He said: “Many of the jobs generated by the racing industry are located in rural areas, and the industry feels it is important to undertake initiatives to give something back to our local communities.
“Many of these initiatives seek to provide schoolchildren and young people in those areas with opportunities to develop life skills, or undertake training that will help them to succeed, whether they choose racing or another industry as a career.”
Buoyant attendances deliver revenues at the gate, in on-course expenditure and in sponsorship that safeguard jobs at racecourses, stables and related organisations.
In the past year, the BHA’s initiatives have included an NVQ Level 1 Horse Care Course at the Northern Racing College, in Doncaster; schemes run in conjunction with The Prince’s Trust to help disadvantaged young people get back into work; and the Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme, which provides careers advice and assistance to jockeys wanting to retrain.
The Cheltenham Festival 2010 will run from March 16 to 19.