There has been a lot of talk recently about fighting at racecourses, and a couple of recent incidents have further highlighted the problem we have. These problems occur on Saturdays mainly, when racecourses are full of people who do not attend very regular, and like to “enjoy” their day to the max. I myself very rarely attend a summer Saturday fixture anymore, for the simple reason you never know who you are going to bump into and what kind of mood those people will be in.
We have three generations of people who currently attend a racecourse:
– The “older end” who are genuine racing fans. These people are 40+, were brought up on the sport and went into their local betting shop to bet/watch the racing on a regular basis.
– The “middle end” are a mixture of horse racing fans and general sport fans. I am in this group myself, along with many others because they love sport. It doesn’t have to be horse racing, and some people in this group are not huge racing fans, but they are big sports fans who like to bet, so a trip to the races gives them a chance to do that.
– The “younger end” are gamblers, but they don’t go into their local betting shop to bet on the horses, because betting shops are not made for horses anymore. These people may place the odd football bet, but their main reason for visiting a betting shop is to play on the FOBTs. While in there they are likely to see racing on the TV, and think that it could be somewhere different to go for a day out with their mates.
I appreciate these are quite sweeping statements, and there will be some young racing fans out there, but those people are in a minority right now.
The younger end are going to the races for a day/night out, not for the sport itself. That is what youngsters do nowadays, they find places to go for a different social meeting, because they want to experience different things. Whether their trips take them to other towns, sporting events, music events or something else, they want to try new things and go to new places, which is where a day at the races comes into it. Our sport actively shows that drinking is allowed on racecourses, so they know when they attend they can have as much to drink as they like. People often say that racecourses are expensive places to drink, so that should put people off but just a few weeks ago I was in Leeds paying £5+ a pint, I didn’t have one but I think it was £4.70 at Thirsk on Tuesday from recollection.
Alongside drinking, a lot of the younger end feel the need to take drugs as well. Whatever your views are on drug taking, there is one thing for sure and that is that the “drug scene” is as popular as it has ever been. I don’t think the majority of people taking drugs are addicts who are hooked each and every single day, but I do think it is something that people do socially. Think of it as social smoking x100, and with the same principles applied. Those who are “social drug takers” will do this while on a day/night out, so if they go to the races, they will do it at the races.
There are many racecourses out there who actively market the drinking side of things to get a younger audience in. Doncaster is a prime example and one I see regularly with it being local to me. Go on a Saturday for a flat meeting and count the number of pop up bars they install inside the racecourse, they do all they can to get people in there and drinking all day. Now I will say I have never seen any trouble at Doncaster, but they are an example of what many racecourses do. They do not put extra coffee bars in for me to get a coffee, but go to great lengths to ensure the drinkers are happy. If you are doing that, then you are going to get the young drinking crowd in, we as a sport are catering to their needs.
That young drinking crowd then brings everything else in with them, and all of a sudden you have long queues for toilets as lads cram into cubicles to snort lines of cocaine together. It is no wonder we then have trouble, I’m sure after 10 pints and a few lines of cocaine I would feel like I could take on the world.
One other note, and something that would help our situation is proper searches on entry to a racecourse. How many times have you been searched when entering a course? I have had a bag looked inside once, and at a guess I have been racing around 30 times in the past 12 months. Is that good enough? Are we too laid back when it comes to racecourse security? Or would proper searches mean big queues outside, and people stood queueing means they are not inside buying beer? I’d love to see the findings if we had proper searches and sniffer dogs in place across all entrances at say Royal Ascot for example in a few weeks time.
For whatever reason, the young generation of today think that excessive drinking and social drug taking is an acceptable way to behave. There are many racecourses out there that actively want these people to come to the races for their next day out, and promote it to them. So with that in mind, should we be surprised that fighting takes place on our racecourses?