News & events
Seconds Out: Oli Bell's Monthly Blog
Happy New Year everyone!
Hope you all had a great Christmas and have started 2023 off with a bang.
As I mentioned in my first blog last month I will use this as a platform to discuss the latest racing topics, answer any of your questions and most importantly talk about the RaceShare horses.
As it is a relatively quiet time of year in the racing world I am going to take this opportunity to get something off my chest. Clothes. Not literally, no one wants that, but I want to talk about clothes people wear at the races. So this week’s blog is going to be me ranting about dress codes.
Specifically, why on earth, in 2023, do we have dress codes at the races? I just don’t get it, I never have and I don’t think I ever will. My issue with it is fairly simple, we are a sport that is fighting for attention and popularity – indeed recently it was announced that attendances have declined by 14.4% since 2019. I’m aware that COVID and the cost of living have been significant factors for this but surely we should be thinking of ways to appeal to everyone and make the sport accessible for all. Ostracising or excluding people based on what they wear is not the way forward!
I’m sure if you’re reading this you will remember the first time you went racing. For me I was about 5 or 6 and I went with my Granny to cheer on her horse Home From The Hill. Thankfully I didn’t have to wear anything specific because I was barely out of nappies but I will never forget that day because it was when I got the racing bug. I can remember every sight, every sound, every smell because I was able to enjoy a day at the races, getting up close to the action. The fact that a large number of racegoers are restricted from experiencing that intensity, that closeness to the action, that excitement, simply because they don’t want to wear a tie for example, is a real shame and will stop the sport of racing gaining new fans.
I am asked regularly how racing can appeal to young people… when this stops I will be pretty depressed because it means I'm not considered in any way ‘young’. But whilst I still am asked I often think about what is the best way to go about it. Firstly, I would speak to young men and women who have no interest in racing and canvas their opinion as to why they don’t go racing, there really is very little point asking people in racing because they are already in the sport. Listen to those NOT coming as opposed to those that do. Secondly, I would look at where the younger generation are spending their time. The answer is largely they are engaging with YouTube and Esports. Channel our efforts into breaking through into those markets. Boxing has seen a huge boom because of huge YouTube stars such as KSI and Jake Paul. Has racing ever tapped into the YouTube generation? Tiktokkers? If they have I certainly haven’t seen it. And thirdly, and to get back to my original point, I would scrap dress codes. I don’t know how many teenagers would own a suit, at a guess 20%? Take away the instant barrier to entry that a dress code sets and perhaps we will see more youngsters and their friends enjoying a day out watching fabulous sport. Once they’re in they will perhaps, like you and I, get the bug.
I recently headed to America for the Breeders Cup and anyone watching the ITV coverage would have seen that I was fortunate enough to meet a load of great characters from all walks of life. It was an amazing, colourful, vibrant atmosphere and a real privilege to be trackside that day. I didn’t know who the next person I would bump into was going to be because everyone was equal, roaming around, wearing whatever they felt comfortable in, being whoever they wanted to be at the races. It was so refreshing. I left there wishing that British racing felt like that. At times it can feel elitist, a bit stuffy and restrictive. We should be striving for the complete opposite.
I know that racecourses will say that there are traditions to uphold and that there are different parts of the course that people can go to if they don’t want to dress up, and I know for many people dressing up for a day at the races is a huge part of the experience. Which is ABSOLUTELY FINE! But why have any requirements or restrictions? I am almost certainly in the minority with this viewpoint but I just don’t get it. Look at golf, players wearing hoodies and shorts now, breaking from tradition. Imagine telling the Kop they could only watch their beloved Liverpool play football in that stand if they wore a suit? Imagine any other sport turning people away because of their attire. It’s unique to racing and something I am wholeheartedly against. We are all humans, irrespective of where we come from, how wealthy people are, how many nice suits people own, we’re all the same and we should be able to experience everything that is great about racing no matter who we are.
So as one of my new year's resolutions I am going to start a campaign, probably a one man campaign, and I’m going to urge a senior racecourse executive to read this and be brave, drop dress codes at a major meeting and maybe, just maybe, you’ll see gate receipts go up, you’ll gain a new audience and you will create a relaxed and happy atmosphere. Rant over. Let me know what you think!? Agree or disagree? Even if this generates debate that is good – as my mate Ed Chamberlin says when we bicker like brothers “it’s healthy to disagree”.
So do get in touch with the RaceShare team with your thoughts, any questions you have for the monthly show – we are filming this month’s very soon or if you have any topics you want me to cover in this blog then please get in touch! In the meantime, take care and we will chat again soon!
Upcoming and past events
18 November 2022
The RaceShare team will be at Ascot on 18 and 19 November at the Shared Ownership Days. This is a great chance for us to meet racegoers and explain...
19 November 2022
RaceShare will be sponsoring the opening Novices' Hurdle at Ascot on 19 November. Alongside this, we will have a stand at Ascot's Shared Ownership ...
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