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Bad weather hits average and total attendances at racetracks.

Byline: Bill Barber

BAD weather was blamed for both total and average attendances falling across Britain's racecourses in 2012.

Having attracted a record figure of more than 6.1 million racegoers in 2011, crowds fell by 9.3 per cent to 5,581,615 last year. Average attendance did not suffer as big a fall but was still down 2.6 per cent to 4,077, from 4,187.

The Racecourse Association said the 129 fixtures lost during the year, compared to just 21 in 2011, were responsible for the majority of the fall in attendance.

Heavy rain in July was believed to have had a major effect. Crowds during that month fell by 32.4 per cent, from just over one million in 2012 to 698,707. Average crowds during July fell by 21.1 per cent to 5,545, from 7,031 12 months earlier.

RCA chief executive Stephen Atkin said yesterday: "British racecourses are to be commended for their hard work in 2012 to promote our sport in what proved to be a difficult year with a number of challenges.

"As recently noted by Visit England, the poor weather had an impact across the leisure and tourism industries as a whole, of which racecourses are a part.

"I'm glad racecourses were able to help attract, in some instances, record crowds to see equine stars such as Frankel light up the track despite the weather and while having to compete against a number of other distractions throughout the year, such as the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Uefa European Championships.

"We look forward to continuing the hard work in 2013 and facing the challenges the year will inevitably bring."

The RCA took solace from record crowds for the Cheltenham Festival and John Smith's Grand National meeting at Aintree, while pointing out that Glorious Goodwood had an increase in attendance despite taking place during the Olympic Games.

Cheltenham was the best attended racecourse in terms of average crowd, increasing by 6.19 per cent to 27,861, and was one of six courses - Ascot, Aintree, Chester, Goodwood and York being the others - to attract an average audience in five figures.

Total average attendances across the 336 fixtures staged at Jockey Club Racecourses' 15 tracks in 2012 increased year-on-year by 1.5 per cent (5,278 people from 5,199). Total attendances were 1.8m in 2012, compared to 1.9m in 2011, as a result of staging 29 fewer fixtures.

JCR group managing director Paul Fisher said: "Whether you look at our average attendances being up, or if you take out the impact of the weather from our total attendances, the popularity of racing at our courses increased year-onyear.

"That's testament to the really hard work of our people on the ground and those helping us to promote the sport, and is a superb result when you consider the doom and gloom in the economy, and the major sports events we competed with in 2012."

The RCA also revealed an increase in terrestrial television viewing figures in 2012.

During the BBC's last year showing the sport, for the foreseeable future at least, the broadcaster attracted an aggregated average audience of 22.2m, up 1.6m on the previous year despite showing one fixture less due to the postponement of the Coral Welsh National.

Channel 4's figures to December 12 showed a two per cent average audience increase for racing and a five per cent average audience increase for viewing The Morning Line over the year.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 25, 2013
Words:587
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