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British racecourses celebrate long-awaited attendance increase

British Horseracing is celebrating a two-per-cent rise in attendance over the first half of 2019, after years of declining figures.

Racecourses have welcomed more than 2.8 million punters so far this year to the end of June, with average attendance at 3,979.

In 2019, Easter weekend helped to boost numbers as it fell in April, when it’s usually in March. More than 100,000 people attended the races from Good Friday to Easter Monday across Britain.

The 2019 February outbreak of equine flu, which saw national postponement of racing, was a significant blow for the sport, but did not deter racegoers later in the year.

The rise in racegoers comes after three consecutive years of declining average attendances, according to Levy Board figures. Since 2015, average attendances have fallen by 7.8 per cent, and fell to their lowest this century in 2018.

The Horserace Betting Levy Board is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the United Kingdom.

David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association, said: “I’m delighted to see the hard work of racecourses pay off and result in an increase to both the total and average attendance figures, with excellent performances by racecourses of all sizes.

“The equine flu outbreak was a difficult period for the sport, but it is hugely reassuring to see that attendances increased despite the national postponement of racing.

“Working collaboratively with Great British Racing, our focus on data has allowed us to give bespoke, targeted support to racecourses via our Marketing Services programme. We will continue this programme and look forward to helping racecourses attract more customers to the sport and enhance the experience of those customers whilst they are on site.”

Rod Street, chief executive of Great British Racing, added: “Competition for the leisure pound is getting fiercer and racing is rising to the challenge. Race-going provides a big opportunity to get people closer to the sport and grow their interest, so these latest figures are encouraging.”

Advance ticket sales have continued to show sustained growth in 2019 with a six per cent year-on-year increase.

Image: Dunphasizer