Whilst enjoying a sunny evenings racing at Towcester on Monday I happened to notice a group of Afro-Caribbean lads watching the horses going round the parade ring.
Since then it has been bugging me as to why I happened to have noticed them in particular. After all they were acting no differently than any other group of young lads you see at racecourses every day, indeed they were a lot quieter than many groups of young lads I’ve seen at courses.
Then yesterday evening I had that Eureka moment. It suddenly came to me why these young lads stuck in my mind.
The simple and arguably painful truth is racing crowds are predominantly white and it is actually very unusual to see a group of non-whites at a racecourse.
It is of course a sensitive subject and I am trying, possibly unsuccessfully, to find the correct phraseology to use without causing offence to someone or another. Yet in a supposedly multicultural society racing crowds are almost totally white.
Government statistics tell us that Leicester has an “immigrant population” of around 40% yet on my frequent visits to Leicester races that demographic is certainly not reflected in those attending the racing.
I suppose one factor is in Muslim communities gambling is not allowed and racings inexorable association with gambling may well play a part in explaining non-attendance from those particular communities. Then again Dubai is a Muslim state and the locals still turn out for the racing, even though there is no betting.
London is a multicultural melting pot but visit any of the London courses and you would not see that reflected in the attendees.
I wonder if Racing For Change have carried out any investigations into the demographics of the racing audience?
Why aren’t racing attendees more reflective of society in general.
It has to be said the racing media fares little better, it is very much dominated by white males and it is a very robust macho environment where the few ladies of the press need to be able to give as good as they get – and they invariably do. However this is another area where white skins predominate, the only notable exception being Ken Pitterson, who incidentally happens to be one of the best paddock judges in the business.
The make-up of crowds at courses has changed over the years. I’ve been going racing for over thirty years and when I first used to go it was unusual to see women at the races. Nowadays that has changed completely, indeed I have been to a few meetings where there have been more women than men in the crowds.
A great deal of this is down to the racecourses who have gone out of their way to attract more female racegoers and all credit to them – although with the proliferation of Ladies Days, many courses have gone from one such meeting a year to several, one wonders if they have gone too far the other way.
It seems very wrong that a group of Afro-Caribbean lads at a racecourse should stand out because they are the exception.
There another great untapped potential audience out there and Racing PLC needs to find a way of engaging with them.