‘Nup to the Cup’ campaign ‘misguided’, says RV chief
“No horses have died this year is a pretty low threshold for measuring animal cruelty in the racing industry,” Ratnam said.
“It seems they want to distract attention from the fact that the racing industry continues to profit from animal cruelty and the harm caused by betting.
“The reality is that more and more people are walking away from horse racing because they know it has had its moment.”
But Jones disagreed, pointing to record betting during Cup week, and while Flemington’s crowds fell short of high expectations, the cold weather was a reasonable excuse for 244,000 people to attend the four-day carnival.
“The real challenge for racing, like any sport, is renewing its fan base and staying relevant to a new, young audience, 18-35, and getting them excited about racing in all its facets – the horses, the sport. , the fashion, the fun, the gambling if you like that, and making it not just socially acceptable but socially desirable, which it is in Victoria,” Jones said.
“There are a lot of mistaken people who think that racing is bad. We have 100 percent the opposite opinion.
“We take care of horses for a living, and we spend our lives and fortunes making sure they are well cared for and have interesting and purposeful lives and careers, and we need to get that message across so that 18-35 year olds think about going. to the races is a good thing to do.
“The first thing we have to do, and we are doing, is make sure our hands are clean and the horses are well cared for and safe. We have invested a lot of time in the veterinary protocols around the Cup, to make sure it is a safe race.
“The industry, to their credit, recognized that we had a problem and we have addressed it, and we have had two safe Cups in a row. Now, we have earned the right to more proactively deliver the message that racing is comfortably positive for the horses and for Victoria.”
Racing Victoria spent more than $7.75 million last year marketing the sport, of which veterans were placed front and center on the billboards. Jones said his campaign was aimed at people who neither hate nor love racing.
“There are some people who will never like racing for whatever reason, and there are some people who love racing,” he said.
“Like all sports and business, we need to make sure the undecided vote with us, that’s what those campaigns are always about, what’s the mix between removing negative perceptions and promoting the positives of fun, dress up, beers and cheers. This year the focus was very much on equine wellness, and that may stay the same, or it may change to talk more about the fun of racing.”
Carnival is likely to go further in November
A $100m drop in betting volume from Champions Day to Cranbourne Cup day has caused Racing Victoria to seriously consider rejuvenating the spring racing carnival and extending it to the end of November.
Jones, a former cricket manager who was one of the pioneers of Twenty20 cricket before taking over racing’s top job on July 1, says casual racing fans have “turned off” after Cup week. , and the sport is missing out on the opportunity to capitalize on the outdoors in the Victorian Sports Calendar.
But Jones said it was highly unlikely that the entire carnival would be delayed a fortnight, which would put the Melbourne Cup on the third Tuesday in November instead of the first.
Rather, he said he would look for ways to keep high-level metro racing on the Saturdays after Cup week to take advantage of the spring racing appeal.
“In Victoria in particular, there is a very clear cycle,” Jones said.. “AFL from March to September, races from October to November, cricket Boxing Day and Big Bash, [Australian] open tennis [in January]. February everyone mopes for a month getting back to work… and then March is the Grand Prix and fall [racing] carnival, and repeats itself.
“We have the opportunity to own all of October and November, instead of October and a small part of November. Other sports have come to the same conclusion… but there’s plenty of room for everyone.”
Betting Day was revamped and renamed Champions Day this year, providing a strong finish to the carnival by attracting the best horses in the country and committed punters, generating more than $160 million in bets.
But the next two Saturdays were held in Cranbourne and Ballarat with their respective cups, with only $60m wagered on Cranbourne by comparison.
“Fans are tuning out,” Jones said. “If you’re losing 60 percent of your bets, you’re losing 60 percent of your audience, that’s what that means. They tell us they want something different at that time of year.
But Jones put a line through Cup week being delayed.
“I think that’s the least likely option,” he said. “The Melbourne Cup and Melbourne Cup week have a unique place in Australian life and there is nothing like it in Australia and very little like it in the world.
“A lot of people build their social lives around that week of the year, so maybe it could work another time, but it works really well right now and it’s a big risk to make the switch.”
A deeper move in November is supported by Seven, which broadcasts the Victorian and Sydney races on Saturday afternoons and wants to maximize its television output.
“We welcome innovation and evolution from our sports partners, and we are very supportive of the VR plans, led by Andrew,” said Lewis Martin, Sevens head of sports.
However, what the late-November races would look like is still up for debate, Jones said.
“We are looking at a variety of options, so it is probably too soon to say anything about what we will do,” he said.