The second half of the third plenary session of the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul was led by Ms Victoria Carter, Deputy Chair of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, who opened with a frank discussion on how racing can respond to a rapidly changing world, with the emphasis on staying relevant and driving diversity.
“If racing wants to expand its participant base and get more fans – the fastest way is through diversity,” Carter said. “More women in racing at all levels, not just on-course, will mean that we have a greater chance of innovation, collaboration and transformation.
“If you can’t see it, how can you be it or believe that it is possible?” she challenged the audience. “Having more women in racing shows all women that it is possible. It means you do not need to be unique, exceptional or chosen and it becomes more of the norm. Remember half the world is women.
“For racing to gallop ahead we need women in leadership roles. If you want good decisions, good strategies and good outcomes, you need people who are different from you. Hence diversity, or gender-balance, matters. Change will make our industry stronger.
“There isn’t an industry today that doesn’t need innovation and new ideas; racing is not alone here. So if we want more women to participate in racing we need to find a way to get the other 50 per cent involved.”
Ms Susannah Gill, Director of External Affairs for Arena Racing Company, provided an insight into British racing’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
British racing, with its rich heritage, excellent growth and leading position in the production of top-quality horses, identified a need to realign with modern society, Gill said.
This resulted in the formation of the Diversity in Racing Steering Group led by the British Horseracing Authority and included representation from all stakeholder groups. The Group will shortly publish its Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.
“Society still perceives racing to be a ‘white, rich man’s sport’, yet it relies mostly on people who are not white, rich or men,” Gill said.
“With racing’s administration populated with white middle-aged men, a current staffing shortage, which will only get worse with Brexit and a gender pay gap, British racing was in trouble.
“So in short, not only do we need to attract the brightest and the best, but we also need to retain them. Hence we have got to be seen to be open for business.”
Ms Anna Seitz Ciannello, Client Development and Public Relations Manager of Fasig Tipton, briefed delegates on the creation and expansion of female racing syndicates, both in the United States and abroad.
With a lifetime of experience in the sport having grown up at Kentucky’s Brookdale Farm, the birthplace of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, Seitz Ciannello spent several years working with seven-time Champion Trainer Todd Pletcher before shifting to sales at Fasig Tipton.
“In my job I realised how exciting it was for people to be involved in owning a racehorse,” Seitz Ciannello said. “Hence I put together my first syndicate and bought a filly named I’m Already Sexy.
“We were not millionaires, we were just a bunch of young people having fun. From there grew the idea of having syndicates for women, where the aim is simply to have fun.”
Partnering with Elaine Lawlor from Goffs, Seitz Ciannello proceeded to expand her syndicates internationally, with runners in Australia, Ireland and the USA.
Her Australian syndicate It’s All About the Girls, formed in 2013, has subsequently brought several hundred new female owners to the sport.
Global Glamour, the syndicate’s Group 1-winning filly, was offered as a prime example of the international reach of such syndicates, boasting 40 owners from eight countries.
Ms Megumi Ichiyama, the Chief of Staff of the Japan Racing Association Publicity Department, shared with delegates the strategy of the UMAJO project which commenced in 2012 and is aimed at attracting women to the racecourse.
“The project was launched when the JRA realised that less than 14 per cent of all racegoers in Japan were women,” Ichiyama said.
“Research showed that women not only wanted to race in comfort, but also wanted to be provided with information and to be guided on racing when attending as a newcomer.”
This led to the creation of the UMAJO SPOT, an area set up exclusively for women at each of the JRA’s racecourses.
Here women are offered concierge services, introductory brochures, refreshments and even educational tours.
The JRA also realised that the horse is a key attraction factor for women and have used this successfully in their poster campaigns. To date the project has already shown to be beneficial with female attendance growing to 17 per cent in 2017.
This is racing.com’s report of the second half of the third plenary session Reaching and Expanding Racing Fan Base that was delivered yesterday to the Asian Racing Conference by a group of women leader in racing.
They are spot on.
I want you to read again what Susannah Gill from Arena Racing said.
Arena Racing is a private equity owned for-profit provider of racing in the UK that owns and operates 16 of the top race courses including Chepstow, Doncaster, Lingfield, Newcastle, Royal Windsor and Southwell.
The company’s management of these courses has been a raging success, and in large part Arena Racing has been responsible for driving the innovation and initiatives that have led to the record levels of prize money in the UK that have risen almost 25% in just three years from 2015 – 2018.
Society still perceives racing to be a ‘white, rich man’s sport’, yet it relies mostly on people who are not white, rich or men. With racing’s administration populated with white middle-aged men ….racing was in trouble … we need to attract the brightest and the best (and) we also need to retain them. Hence we have got to be seen to be open for business.
Never a more true word was said.
We need more women in racing so that we can both ensure that women participants in the industry achieve full equality for the first time, and to unlock the massive potential market of women in a dying sport that drowning man desperately try to preserve as their own.
I will take it even a step further.
The non-proprietary model of racing – that is, the sport being run by not-for-profit clubs headed and dominated by middle-aged and older white men – has proven to be a rank failure in the 21st century.
We live in a world of rapidly developing technological change that can alter our long-perceived realities in seemingly the blink of an eye, and there is no better example than that of the racing industry and the extraordinary changes wrought in such a small period of time by the rise of the corporate bookmaker.
What has happened in racing over the past decade is akin to the global shift caused by the industrial revolution, and by and large the leaders of the industry and the political masters in charge of regulating the sport have been caught flat-footed and have been unable to adapt to the change, and as a result our sport is dying.
The old white men who run racing can’t see – or perhaps refuse to see – that the world has shifted around them, and nowhere more so than in Queensland where the Old Boys Club has been caught clueless and infiltrated and overtaken by the rapaciously greedy New Boys Club, and it’s even money the pair because either way racing is dying.
The answer is pretty simple really, even though for a lot it won’t be palatable.
It’s time to give free enterprise a go.
Racing needs to become proprietary.
That is, privatised.
We need people who actually give a fuck because it’s in their own interests to care to run racing, not old white men who’d rather race off to Singapore at someone else’s expense to watch their shit horse win some crap race that nobody but them cares about instead of staying home and leading the club that members elected them to lead on its biggest day of the year.
Successful business women of the ilk of the four over-achievers that I mentioned in the title of this piece won’t need any convincing.
Each of them has broken down glass walls and ceilings during their career, and done it on their own two feet despite what their dickhead ex-husband’s might have liked at one stage to say, or might still say.
The free market and the profit motive is the answer to all of racing’s ills. Super-successful people with a financial interest in making sure racing maximises its potential will make sure that it does.
Old blokes who don’t give a toss won’t.
A jockey, an experienced Director, the public face of Vegas racing and the woman who made Brisbane a first-class crackerjack city and smashed down the barriers for all the females who would follow, all working with a team of progressive go-getting blokes headed by the most successful owner in racing history.
Bernie, Mary, Janie, Sally and Pete.
What more could a racing club ever want or need.
Let’s get rocking.
Let’s save racing.