Might be a little controversial today.
Let me start by asking the question, how many channels does racing need?
Today we are remarkably over served with so much racing at our fingertips. ITV Racing, Attheraces, channel 415 on Sky, which comes free with the Sky sports package (and rumours say it might shortly be rebranded as Sky racing); then we also have Racing UK, channel 432, a subscription channel. Both racing channels also have excellent websites, which backed up by the Racing Post and their mass of multimedia resources, and so much other online content means that racing fans have never had it so good. All British and Irish racing is available live, together with all the major French, American, Dubai and Hong Kong racing.
Over the weekend, the story broke that Irish racing, now the major attraction on Attheraces was going to move to Racing UK (now likely to be rebranded) from 1 January 2019, leaving ATR with Doncaster and the St Leger meeting as its big attraction.
Perhaps, as with most major announcements of change, people have been up in arms, talking about how sad it is, how Irish racing will be sacrificed, how split screens will ruin the viewer’s experience or simply the loss of the audience who don’t or won’t pay the RUK subscription.
I say this – so what! Football aside, what other sport can claim (or seemingly expect) so much coverage? Why does racing think it needs two dedicated channels, as well as a major terrestrial channel? Surely this is duplication in extreme. Any other sport would crave the amount of airtime that racing gets.
I actually think Irish racing should complement RUK. The majority of the big Irish racing is on Sundays when British racing is usually fairly mundane. If there are some clashes – well that happens anyway on occasion and no doubt people will be able to work around it.
Nailing my colours to the mast I’ve always believed there should only be one racing channel. With Chelmsford announcing today that they will also be going to RUK, maybe this day will come sooner. But nothing runs that smoothly, and amongst the coverage was the suggestion that Ascot, the original jewel in the ATR crown before being the first big course to switch, might be open minded about moving back when their rights come up shortly. Wouldn’t that be perverse?
I find increasingly that I am watching races on my laptop through the websites, rather than either 415 or 432 (or ITV racing). Maybe digital rights will be where it is one day but for now the tide is flowing to RUK, and I for one have no problem with that at all.
The other observation I’d make is to wait and see what RUK do with the Irish racing. Maybe they will do a brilliant job, maybe they will be an improvement on what we have today. Racing or otherwise, people hate change. When faced with it, it is normal to think about how bad it is likely to be in the future. I guess we’ll know by the Dublin Racing Festival 2019.