The Racing Horse accepts the Amman Valley Trotting Club is a not-for-profit organisation and reinvests all surpluses generated back into the site and surrounding community. Established in 1979 the club originally intended to arrange harness racing for local enthusiasts but it has grown since then and the remit changed. Now races are put on with competitors regularly coming from all parts of Wales as well as England, Scotland and Ireland. On Sunday we went to support the races at our local track...
Harness Racing makes for a Fabulous Spectacle!
Once again it was both disappointing and sad to witness such a poor attendance at our local ‘harness racing track’ at Tairgwaith and on this occasion we could not blame the weather! It was a shame because the spectacle and wonderful standardbreds on display deserved an audience!
In any sport a poor turnout detracts!
Assuming the club accepts the sport is now considered a product they must offer value for money. We spoke to a number of racegoers who paid their £7 entrance fee. Some thought it a little expensive but most were happy to pay proper remuneration to see the horses strut their stuff. Virtually all admitted that the poor turnout detracted from the fun and gaiety and this aspect needs addressing?
Appealing to a small core clique is always a mistake!
Nobody disputes the hard unpaid work that the committee, race officials and members commit too, but it is fair to ask if they are just appealing to their own core clique? The Racing Horse is not an authority but would like to suggest there are some things that could easily be done without much effort and without spending money. The single biggest cause for poor turnout is ‘message failure.’ Messaging to themselves will not bring in new visitors. For example, I volunteered to help AVTC promote this fantastic sport but was told ‘yes, you can help, we always need someone with a paintbrush!’ I had free time, the inclination and a genuine love of harness racing but was turned away.
Spreading the word is vital if attracting new blood
Living in South Wales and socialising in the surrounding area we have not found a single reference to Amman Valley Trotting Club, Tairgwaith in any shop, library, pub, club, leisure or art centre. We know within this bandwidth there are those happy to advertise free of charge. More than that we can confirm that the Pontardawe Art Centre is horse friendly and would gladly herald news. Many thousands walk through their entrance hall every single month from the South and Mid-Wales area and read their notices. We notice in Mid-Wales things are somewhat different - many shops and pubs advertise and show photographs and this sends a message and creates interest.
Messaging a must!
Another opportunity lies in the Community Mag that prints 22,000 copies each month. An eighth page advert/promotion costs just £35 per issue and one could easily raise those funds by inviting a patron/s or sponsor to pay for it.
The programme looks a lazy effort and basic in content!
The programme given out on entry is somewhere between basic and crude. Other than runners and drivers and dates of meets there is absolutely no information contained that would invite a member of the public to get involved. The programme represents another wasted opportunity to communicate, not just with old members, but those going racing for the first time. The programme looks lazy! Can we have a foreword, a welcoming message, an advert that would pay for the Community Mag. Can we have some racing news or latest updates on the site? Anything really that would grab ones interest. Every opportunity must be taken to spread the word including the commentator who has ample time between races to educate/remind the patrons.
Must have bookmakers if we are to have horse racing!
To go to a racing meet and have just one bookmaker in attendance is an awful state of affairs. It shouts amateur and can't be bothered to the public! Those who bet at these types of venues do not expect to receive fair odds. For most it is a bit of fun, but to have the bookmaker offering 1/2, 6/4, 3/1, 3/1, 4/1 and 5/1 on six horses for a near 100% overround is beyond the pale! That said we cannot do without the bookmaker, any bookmaker, they are woven into the fabric of horse racing. We emphasise it was not the fault of the sole bookmaker who turned up - in fact we gave him our thanks! He confirmed he made a profit...
Hobby or development that is the question!
Despite my offer of help I have never received a single call or email concerning information or fixture and that was a shame. It might be that AVTC does not want to truly develop and are happy where they are. Every time I visit I sense complacency, with the hobby/fun mentality coming first and furtherance second. With some new energy (advertising and messaging) I believe there is a marvellous opportunity to boost the coffers/profile of the area/track if the development of the sport aspect were embraced. With some resignation I am not expecting anything to change but will continue to support harness racing in Wales and especially Tairgwaith.
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