* Total and average attendances for January to June 2019 rise 2%
*Bumper Easter weekend sees over 100,000 enjoy a day at the races
*Drive for advance sales continues to reap the reward with 6% increase
*Attendance figures withstand the impact of the equine influenza outbreak
British Horseracing has welcomed the latest Levy Board (HBLB) attendance figures which indicate a 2% rise in both total and average attendances for the first half of 2019. These were boosted by the brilliant weather and excellent racing over Easter, with over 100,000 people heading to the races from Good Friday to Easter Monday. A total of 704 fixtures took place during the first six months of both 2018 and 2019.
The impact of the equine flu outbreak, which saw a national postponement of racing from Thursday 7th February to Tuesday 12th February inclusive, was significant for the sport, however, overall attendance figures indicate the durability of the public’s appetite and affection for horseracing.
In a like-for-like comparison with 2018, the first six months of 2019 have seen a 2% rise in total attendance to 2,801,512 whilst the average attendance per fixture has also risen 2% to 3,979. Some of the sport’s most iconic events helped boost these figures, including The Festival™ at Cheltenham and the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom Downs where each day of both events saw an increase in attendance from 2018.
Advance ticket sales have continued to show sustained growth with a 6% year-on-year increase. This remains of utmost importance to racecourses to protect attendances and revenue in a crowded leisure market and provides racegoers with the better value given the price incentives on offer by purchasing tickets in advance.
The Easter weekend, occurring later in the year than in 2018, saw four fantastic days of racing action taking place across 20 fixtures on 19 different British racecourses. More than 102,000 racegoers were in attendance with an increase of 123% in advance sales over the weekend, which saw some 45,000 tickets purchased ahead of the raceday.
As we enter the second half of 2019, there is plenty to look forward to with summer jumps racing and major flat festivals at York, Doncaster and Newmarket followed by the climax of the Flat season with QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot. The GBR-led national Under 18s Race Free campaign will also be in full swing alongside the summer school holidays, led by Strictly Come Dancing superstar and mother of two Tess Daly as campaign ambassador.
David Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association, said: “I am delighted to see the hard work of racecourses pay off and result in an increase to both the total and average attendance figures, with excellent performances by racecourses of all sizes.
“The equine flu outbreak was a difficult period for the sport, but it is hugely reassuring to see that attendances increased despite the national postponement of racing.
“Working collaboratively with Great British Racing, our focus on data has allowed us to give bespoke, targeted support to racecourses via our Marketing Services programme. We will continue this programme and look forward to helping racecourses attract more customers to the sport and enhance the experience of those customers whilst they are on site.”
Rod Street, Chief Executive of Great British Racing, added “competition for the leisure pound is getting fiercer and racing is rising to the challenge. Racegoing provides a big opportunity to get people closer to the sport and grow their interest, so these latest figures are encouraging.”