Racing to trial odds overhaul

DECIMAL odds are to be used in the spring for a short trial period as part of a number of initiatives intended to help "connect" racing with the wider public.

However, the decimal move is intended to be low-key, being introduced at several meetings over one weekend as Racing for Change accept there is likely to be some opposition to replacing the traditional and well-established prices, and will assess customer reaction.

It is just one of ten key points announced today by Racing for Change, the new project board tasked with modernising the sport and widening its appeal. They will be implemented by the end of June, with all sections of the industry being asked to play their part in raising the profile of racing.

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On-course bookmakers will be encouraged to offer standard each-way terms as well as better customer service, jockeys and trainers are to be listed on racecards by their first names and surnames, while the results of photo-finishes will be displayed on screen at the same moment as the judge's announcement.

Racing for Change believe the reluctance by some of the sport's stars to work more closely with the media is having a detrimental effect on the positive publicity that can be achieved, and as a result funded media training for jockeys and trainers is to be made available, together with access to a 100,000 appearance fee budget for work with non-racing media.

Race names are to be simplified, with several racecourse initiatives and a central PR campaign to promote racing more effectively to a wider audience also featuring, including opportunities through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

These are the first moves in what is seen as a long-term strategy to capitalise on the sport's strengths and to promote them more effectively in an effort to raise its profile and bring in new customers.

Chris McFadden, Racing for Change chairman, said: "British horseracing is the envy of the racing world with our abundance of outstanding horses, trainers and jockeys as well as a host of first class racetracks. Yet, despite the likes of Sea The Stars and Kauto Star, the sport is failing to connect, as it did in the past, with the wider public. This is, no doubt, a result of a significantly more competitive betting and leisure environment – so we have to raise our game.

"What has encouraged us during the research and consultation stages of the project is that, fundamentally, there is little wrong with the racing as an entertainment, leisure and betting medium.

"What it requires is a clearer structure and better presentation of its strengths – its drama, spectacle and heritage as well as its equine and human stars.

"What we need to do is promote the sport in a way that makes it relevant to a much bigger audience and these ten initiatives are the first steps in that process.

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"The recent consultations have delivered many more good ideas that we can start to implement over the coming months. We just need the courage to trial them."