Over 50 organisations from the British racing industry came together for the Racing Together Community Day which saw over 250 employees dedicate time to engaging with the local community.
Employees volunteered at a number of locations across the country such as Age UK in Camden and Riding for the Disabled in Cheltenham. The Racing Together Community day comes as the racing industry has moved to both change its image and attract a new demographic of racers.
Naomi Wood, Hospitality Coordinator at Cheltenham Racecourse, said: “It was an amazing chance to see what the wonderful people at Riding for the Disabled do, and to see how their hard work impacts on the lives of the riders and their families. We feel very lucky to have been able to participate in this day and have now signed up to volunteer with them in the future.”
Lucy Saunders, Community Engagement Manager at Racing Together, explained that the initiative has successfully showcased the racing industry to those that may not usually be involved.
She said: “Racing Together Community Day is just a small part of wider, year-round unprompted community, charity and volunteering work of people within the racing industry, but the day showcases it to an audience that may not usually see it.
“As the UK’s second largest spectator sport, racing cannot rely on team loyalty to attract its audience as other sports do (such as football), and community activities are an important way to show that the sport cares about its neighbours and wishes to support a range of charities and causes.”
Among the 58 organisations involved in the community day, however, it was noticeable that racecourses were among the most prominent participants. While bookmakers are involved in similar community-focused schemes, there is arguably more scope for their engagement with local areas.
Saunders, when asked about whether bookmakers can play more of a role in facilitating further engagement between horse racing and the wider community, added: “The simple answer is: yes. William Hill is committed to a project in Scotland alongside Scottish Racing to support people living with dementia, for example, and some of their Yorkshire regional team took part in a litter pick as part of Racing Together Community Day alongside racecourse staff, trainers and jockeys.
“Retail bookmakers interact with their local communities, while online businesses can offer promotional support for the event. There is plenty of scope for bookmakers to embrace and promote Racing Together Community Day as it continues to grow.
“The local community represents a key audience for racing, and other commercial activity that is staged at racecourses. Racing’s image is so often defined by a handful of races or issues – often focusing on negative issues – so to highlight the reach and commitment of the sport playing its part in society is an important message.”