Racing should make most of opportunities to grow inclusivity, says report

Sun 15 Dec 2019

Racing can focus on four key areas to make itself more appealing and inclusive to the general public, according to the Diversity in Racing Steering Group, following the publication of its annual report.

It is felt the most should be made of the mainstream media interest created by Khadijah Mellah, the young Muslim woman from inner-city London who won the Magnolia Cup at Goodwood, and professional female jockeys Bryony Frost, Rachael Blackmore and Hollie Doyle, highlighting how the breadth of talent can be used to attract new audiences and broaden racing’s appeal.

Four areas of focus have been drawn up, as the group seeks to make progress on the diversity and inclusion action plan, which was published last year: raising awareness of the issue’s importance; collating and evaluating cross-industry data; looking at ways to create a culture of inclusivity and increasing riding opportunities for female jockeys.

Watch what Rose Grissell had to say to Nick Luck on Luck On Sunday this morning about the Diversity In Racing Steering Group's four key areas

The report stated: “Today, and throughout racing’s history, people with enormously varied backgrounds have contributed to the sport in a multitude of ways. In many ways racing, like other sports, can pride itself on its reach across different parts of the population, we can open our arms to an audience as diverse as Britain itself.

“Racing is the second most attended sport with a 40:60 female male gender split amongst attendees and is built on the unique platform of men and women competing alongside each other equally.

“However, currently some areas of the sport could be seen as out of kilter with modern British society – from the composition of the sport’s leadership and the opportunities afforded to participants, through to the make-up of people attending and enjoying racing.

“The commercial benefits of widening racing’s reach and growing engagement to broaden our customer base, as well as our workforce, are unequivocal. Recently we have seen some interesting clues as to how we may go about this to put racing back at the centre of national life.

“If we look across all sport, we are seeing new investments, greater media coverage and sports brands focusing on women’s sport and this is intrinsically linked to the increase in audience numbers, as demonstrated by record figures for the 2019 Women’s Football World Cup.

“In 2019, racing already saw the benefits of its ability to attract a diverse range of participants and the appeal of top-class female competitors. The sport hit the front pages of mainstream media thanks to some inspiring success stories.”

It added: “Combine this with the interest from outside the sport in Vanessa Cashmore’s recent research showing that female jockeys are as good as male jockeys, and it is clear that the role of female participants attracts attention from new audiences, suggesting this is an area which we can build on.

“As few as a quarter of trainers are women and only 14 per cent of professional jockeys are women, yet in 2018 female jockeys took just 8.2 per cent of rides and no women rode in a top-level Group One race at all. Encouragingly, we are making progress, but the data trend-line predicts equality in share of rides won’t be reached until approximately 50 years’ time on the Flat, and in roughly a century in jump racing.

“Racing has a unique opportunity to bust some myths and stereotypes about sport, and at the same make the headlines through its positive stories. This is not just about gender; there are minority groups that are not truly included in our sport.

“Recent research amongst customers, soon to be published, indicates that racing’s ability to make everyone feel welcome presents an exciting chance for the sport to develop. The world is changing. By making racing for everyone, the industry has an opportunity to appeal to the next generation as fans and employees, to sponsors, to Government, and to compete with other sports and leisure activities.

“In doing so it can grow and thrive as a sport.”

Rose Grissell, head of diversity and inclusion for British racing, said: “The Diversity in Racing Steering Group has made good progress since its formation in 2018 and the publishing of the action plan, and since I joined the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) it has been useful to understand more about how the different parts of the industry feel about making racing a more inclusive sport.

“Our focus now is on improving our evidence base, getting out to the industry and raising awareness of the benefits of having an inclusive sport. We aim to empower everyone in the industry to play their role in creating a sport which offers a big-hearted welcome for everyone. 

“Without the funding recently received from the Racing Foundation the next stage of work would not have been possible, so our thanks must go to them. With this funding and a closer link to the industry stakeholders, through the support of the Members’ Committee, we’re excited for the year ahead and look forward to accelerating progress.”

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