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Crowd total falls by just three per cent in first six months; British attendances hold up well in face of recession ... but it's a struggle in Ireland.

Byline: Andrew Scutts

BRITAIN'S racecourses fared much better than Ireland's in terms of attendance in the first half of this year, figures released to the Racing Post have revealed.

While total attendance and average attendance at courses in Ireland between January 1 and June 30 this year showed significant dips of 17 and 14 per cent, reductions for the British tracks registered three and 1.2 per cent falls.

Total attendance at 715 British meetings was 2,756,747, against 2,840,956, while the average crowd was 3,856, only slightly down from 3,902 on 2008.

The key indicator, that of average attendance, suggests racecourses' marketing efforts are continuing to pay dividends in the face of the recession, with Racecourse Association officials more than satisfied with their first half of the year figures.

Promotions executive John Phillips said: "Overall our racecourses are weathering the storm very well. Given that the economic downturn didn't really kick in until the second half of last year, you are comparing this year's half-year figures with no downturn figures from last year.

"We're holding our own, and if you'd asked at the start of the year if you'd be happy with an attendance drop of 1.2 per cent come mid-year, a lot of people would have taken that."

During recent weeks there have been some notably large attendances, with Chester attracting 41,371 on Sunday and Newcastle a modern-day record of 25,000 the previous Saturday.

However, racecourses and their umbrella organisation continue to take nothing for granted and will be hoping that the near ten per cent drop in average crowds for June - 6,148 against 6,825 - is not a sign of things to come for the remainder of 2009.

Phillips added: "Attendance figures to the end of May were standing up excellently. June was disappointing, but we've not exactly had a summer yet.

"The suspect weather played a part in that June figure - the first disappointing month - as it was certainly not encouraging to attending outdoor sport."

Average daily attendance last year was 4,017, down 8.2 per cent on 2007, while the aggregate attendance of 5,716,656 was the lowest since 2002.


Big crowds at the Grand National meeting at Aintree helped toward a year-on-year rise in attendance figures for April
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 5, 2009
Previous Article:TODAY.
Next Article:HRI left in limbo on budget until government decides on cutbacks.

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