Sunday, May 02, 2021


This is the weekend of the social media boycott and I can't not talk about that, but we'll get there via Yarmouth last Tuesday.  Cloudy Rose ran a nice race in her first handicap, finishing fourth of five.  The market seemed to reckon that the handicapper had got her wrong by a massive amount: the other four runners were priced between 7/4 and 5/1, while she went off at 66/1.  That's so silly.  No horse should be 66/1 on his/her handicap debut unless the horse is out of the handicap or racing at a distance or on ground that is blatantly wrong, bearing in mind that the handicapper's brief has been to allot a mark which gives the horse a fair chance.  I actually thought she'd been rated a bit too high and she clearly has, but happily not by nearly as great a margin as the betting market seemed to think.

So we move on to the social media boycott.  I'll preface these remarks by saying that it's only social media and therefore by definition it's unimportant, and that it's only for three days.  And I'm sure that those leading on this, ie the BHA, were well-intentioned.  But this is silly and the BHA really should have known better.  And I should emphasise that I understand the rationale, ie that something had to be done to try to steer the social media companies towards doing what they ought to do, ie police their publications to prevent them being used as a conduit for hate and nastiness.

I fully support the FA and the Premier League taking a stand.  Manchester United has 25 million Twitter followers; Liverpool and Arsenal 17 million; Chelsea 16 million; and so on.  If the Premier League and the players boycott social media, it will hit the social media companies hard.  I would imagine that Twitter can charge plenty for an ad (a 'promoted tweet') next to a Manchester United tweet.  Similarly, their doing so might encourage their fans to discourage their friends from being horrid.  One can imagine a conversation along the lines of, "It's because of dickheads like you that our club isn't tweeting.  Remember that tweet you put up a couple of weeks ago...".

If the Premier League Clubs and the players were to say that they weren't going to post on social media again until the companies had taken action (as opposed to saying that they won't post for three days and then will carry on as before) then the companies would take action very swiftly.  But racing?  Come on.  We don't have anything like that influence.  If the BHA or racecourses, or whoever, stop tweeting, Twitter would hardly notice and would care even less.  It's no skin off Twitter's nose whatsoever.  We're living in Cloud Cuckoo Land if we believe otherwise.  And doing it in support of the Premier League?  Honestly!  The Premier League couldn't care one way or another.  And they wouldn't help us.  They don't even help each other, as the mooted Super League showed.

It also showed that Premier League Clubs don't need PR as that was an appalling PR debacle but won't have stopped anyone from supporting their club - but racing definitely does need PR.  So that's the upside, ie there isn't one.  (And if you still aren't convinced of the pointlessness of racing joining the boycott, this is from The Times yesterday: 'Organisations including the Football Association, the Premier League and the EFL have all announced they are suspending their accounts.  They will be joined by bodies representing rugby, cricket, tennis, cycling, darts and sports broadcasters.'  Darts!  But racing?  Well, we did, but nobody noticed.)  And the downside?  Well, there is one, a big one.

Yesterday was the biggest raceday of Newmarket's year and the biggest raceday of Thirsk's year.  QIPCO and Betfair put a lot into Newmarket's card and Cliff Stud sponsored the whole card at Thirsk.  Today AJN Steelstock sponsored the whole card at Salisbury, and Mansionbet the whole card at Hamilton.  And QIPCO, of course, were very generous at Newmarket again.  We're still in lockdown and people can't go to the races.  It's currently very hard for racecourses to find sponsors as there's nothing in it for the sponsor.  Sponsors can't take their friends - I doubt that they can even go themselves -  and there is no audience at the racecourse to appreciate their generosity.

Just about all the racecourse can offer is that it can use its PR mechanism to give the sponsor as much publicity as possible.  Not this weekend, though, thanks to the bright idea of boycotting social media.  A day before racing, Newmarket had to tell QIPCO, and Thirsk had to tell Cliff Stud, that it had changed its mind about using its principal PR network, ie its social media outlets, to promote the sponsors.  No wonder these sponsors are as peeved as they are.  They deserve better.  It really was not fair on the racecourses to ask them do to this, and all the more so because racing's input into the boycott will achieve nothing.  It's utterly pointless.

And, on the subject of the fact that racing is still behind-closed-doors, there will have been many thousands of racing enthusiasts who would have liked to go to Newmarket or Thirsk, to Salisbury or Hamilton, this weekend.  But they couldn't go because of lockdown.  All that will have been achieved by brow-beating racecourses, plus other organisations and people involved in the sport, into joining the boycott is to make people who are missing their racing feel even more disconnected from the sport than they already do.  I've unwillingly joined the boycott (more or less) because I'm lazy and that's the road of least resistance (and fundamentally it's only social media so isn't important one way or the other) and because these things always cause ill feeling (which, ironically, is what those who have organised racing's participation will claim that they are trying to prevent) but I don't feel comfortable about doing something which I believe to be, to put it kindly, misguided.


neil kearns said...

Interesting thoughts John all of which are perfectly valid and reasoned , if i may just counter two things whilst you may say correctly it is only social media to millions that is actually the media , there is no other , chatting to my granddaughter the other day and mentioned a news item her reply its not been on facebook ......And while you or i may think thats ridiculous she is just one of many millions who dont watch mainstream news or read the paper so if their favourite sports people , clubs and sports boycott their chosen media it really means something .
Secondly the sponsors had their logos emblazoned all over the tracks i thought the tracks did a decent job in getting their names over and again as racing has repeatedly failed miserably to get the buzz of the sport across to a younger audience whether or not the sponsors name is on social media is frankly the least of racings concerns in that sphere

David J Winter. said...

Well presented and quite hilarious blog , John. Now we know we are a number of places below the multi -million pound and cerebral “sport” of darts we can drop all of the pretentious trappings of Ascot and rejuvenate “Alley Pally” as our HQ. Ha! Ha! ( They actually play the world darts championship there !!)
What was so disappointing at Newmarket was the number of runners for the group supporting races even though they were worth 15-20K
Such an anti can one judge or be interested in falsely run races with 3 or 4 runners? Quite worrying and although the ground was quick it wasn’t ( in my opinion) unsafe. Why were the fields so small?

neil kearns said...

David you ask a really good question at Ascot last week there was £125000 worth of winners prize money over seven races only 51 total runners varying levels so why so few runners and this has been happening since the start of the turf season , Newmarket another classic example and more often than not it is the group one tracks that have the worst turn outs , if it is purely the dry spring fine but am not convinced it is think there is something else going on . Over the whole of the winter the number of UK top graded races that had under eight runners was massive it is almost as though connections are scared to go for the big prizes as if they fail they will not be able to be competitive back down in handicaps ....not sure , but something isnt right at the top end of the sport