The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has emphasised the importance of the UK horse racing sector as a global sport, but also acknowledging an urgent need to maximise engagement in the domestic market.
The British Racing’s Sports Economy Breeders’ Cup Trade Mission on 1 November began with a welcome reception held in California, which BHA CEO, Julie Harrington, addressed with an opening speech.
Citing ease of travel and the impact of social media, the BHA stressed that racing is more and more a global sport, with its participants and supporters following the action in Britain, from across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and the US.
Harrington began: “The global demand for British bloodstock continues to rise with significant interest and investment coming from the US market. Our world-leading thoroughbred breeding operations are underpinned by a thriving stallion market headlined by Darley’s Dubawi and Juddmonte’s Frankel.”
Hosted by the UK Government and sponsored by Ascot Racecourse, Great British Racing International and The Jockey Club, the event provided an opportunity for senior industry representatives from across racing including British horsemen and women competing in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to meet the trade mission delegation, valued owners and other international investors.
“I am thrilled that our great racing in Britain is enjoyed far and wide and, on behalf of the world-class practitioners of the sport in my country, I welcome and encourage the challenge from overseas competitors that means we all must keep upping our own game,” the CEO continued.
This UK trade mission represents the first time the industry has collaborated on a large-scale international event with the support of the Government. Harrington described the potential for it to deliver new international investment into British racing as a ‘fantastic opportunity’.
Meanwhile, she also described how 2023 has been a pivotal year for British racing as the authority looks to grow the popularity of the sport.
“This year we have recently announced a new initiative through the creation of Premier Racedays in Britain from 2024, with higher prize money and more top-quality racing featuring not only the best British horses but seeking to attract even more top-class runners from overseas,” Harrington added.
A key part of the BHA’s industry strategy to increase engagement with the sport at home, as well as to better bring to life the unique and diverse landscape of British racing to a global audience.
With attendances falling in recent years, and the sport having to contend with the restrictions of the COVID-19 lockdown era, engaging new generations of sports fans has become of paramount importance for racing.
Betting volume on racing has also been surpassed by football, but the government has sought to address the funding issue faced by the sport by examining the existing annual levy paid by operators each year. Meanwhile, governing bodies such as the BHA assert that they are committed to investing in the sport.
“Despite being recognised as a world leader, British racing will continue to invest, to learn and to lead in the years ahead,” Harrington concluded.