British Horse Racing’s international appeal should be at the forefront of any potential new trade and influencing opportunities, as China emerges as a key market partner for the UK. The claim was made by a report entitled British Horseracing’s International Influence which was published this week by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).
Racing in the UK already draws a worldwide TV audience with spectators in the USA, Japan and the Gulf States and, increasingly, China. It’s the Asian superpower that the British Horseracing Authority believes the government should be concentrating on and taking greater advantage of in order to build relationships.
At present, such relationships are in place with Arab Gulf investors such as Godolphin’s Sheikh Mohammed, Shadwell Racing’s Sheikh Hamdan and Prince Khalid Abdullah at Juddmonte Farms, but Chinese investment is on the up also. At least two Chinese owners, Yulong Investments and China Horse Club have entered runners at some, if not all, of the UK’s biggest meetings over the past twelve months, including Royal Ascot.
Bloodstock investment is on the up too, with more than £16 million worth of Chinese investment pouring in over the last five years. Which is why, given the meteoric rise in the Chinese economy and its new found wealth creating an ever growing middle class, not to mention China’s legendary love of horse racing and, where allowed, gambling, it makes perfect sense for British horse Racing to woo China as its next big investor.
Everybody Wants A Piece Of British Sports
At this year’s Cheltenham Festival, Mims Davies, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, proudly declared that the UK is punching above its weight globally because “everybody wants a piece” of its sport, including horse racing.
While Football is the most attended sport in Britain, Horse Racing comes in second with over six million attendees turning up to watch races every year, while it also accounts for four of the top ten most attended events annually in the UK. Royal Ascot alone boasts in excess of 300,000 visitors, while the Cheltenham Festival draws in an annual crowd of 70,000.
In 2017, Ascot Racecourse signed a broadcasting deal with Chinese network Sina, which has 270 million subscribers. The deal included social media coverage through Weibo, China’s leading social media channel with over 600 million accounts.
Ascot Racecourse CEO Guy Henderson said;
“China is a very important emerging market for us with an increasing number of owners with interests in British racing. To be able to provide this coverage in China, where the ceremony and tradition of Royal Ascot is of considerable interest, is a key part of our international broadcast strategy.
This partnership with Sina presents a crossover of sports and social, introducing the unique culture of British horse racing into Chinese life which we hope will develop into investment into the sport to the benefit of Britain.”
Missed Opportunities In British Sports On Global Platform
Sport is what governments refer to as a soft power and few countries can boast such history, heritage and tradition as Britain when it comes to sport. It boasts major stops on the tours of both Tennis and Golf, recently hosted the Olympics and is the home of Rugby. Asia’s other superpower, India, is Cricket mad and that’s not counting the world’s most popular sport football, for whom the English Premier League remains the world’s most viewed league.
It’s history and heritage that again play into Horse Racing’s favour when it comes to global appeal, as does its close links to the royal family. The UK is considered world wide to be the birthplace of modern racing dating back to King Charles II racing horses at Newmarket, which itself is still internationally thought of as the home of racing. Factor in Queen Anne’s founding of Ascot Racecourse in 1711 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup as well as the Grand National and Horse Racing is in a very strong position.
British racing boasts 76 Grade 1 and Group races each year, while almost a quarter of the top 100 races worldwide are run in the UK. In 2018, half of the top 12 horses internationally were British which goes to explain why stallion fees for the 2,000 Guineas winner are £36,938, instead of £13,103 for the winner of America’s prized Breeders’ Cup.
So you can see why, Horse Racing, with its major festivals at Cheltenham, Goodwood, and Ascot plus feature races such as The Derby, The Oakes, The St Leger and both the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, is worth so much influence potentially.
Sadly though, the British Horseracing Authority believe that all that potential is not being realised. The BHA also believe that the British government and the Foreign Office are consistently missing an opportunity to use sport as an asset when building relationships and securing their diplomatic and commercial objectives of securing long-term investment into the United Kingdom as well as local economies and help create jobs. With Brexit looming, these non-EU relationships have taken on a far greater importance.