With the Cheltenham Festival underway are horses a football club's new secret weapon in the aim to keep fans on side?
With many sports organisations and even football club owners turning into racehorse owners, the possibility of a club offering season ticket holders a share in a racehorse is being suggested as a future way of keeping loyalty.
“We have already seen racecourses themselves offer syndication opportunities and there is nothing stopping a football club from setting up a racehorse syndicate and putting that horse to run in the club colours and offering season ticket holders a share in the horse,” says Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) chief executive, Charlie Liverton.
Being part of a syndicate is becoming an increasingly interesting pastime for those already involved in football. Syndicate Managers run the investment in a horse on behalf of a variety of people putting in big or small amounts of money. The managers do all the paperwork and ensure that the trainer is developing the horse the best of its ability.
Whilst being part of a syndicate is never sold as an investment, it is sold as a social investment – allowing you to meet new people and have fun following the fortunes of your horse up and down the country.
And as that enjoyment is being had by an increasing number of people within football, it raises the question whether it could be used as an incentive to strengthen the bond between a season ticket holder, corporate box holder or any partner a football club wishes to look after.
“One correlation between football and horse racing is competitiveness. I am a fan of both sports and I love the competitiveness and the colours of them. In that sense it is just like football,” says Charlie from the ROA, which represents the interests of all those that have a stake in racehorses in the UK.
And those numbers are rising. Football seems to be getting closer and closer to racing. Only last autumn the current owner of Leicester City invested heavily in horses which he hopes could lift a title at Royal Ascot. Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha recently spent over £2 million on four horses in the Tattersalls sale. These horses will eventually come under the training of multi-winning stable run by Andrew Balding.
There are currently 1,300 horses owned by syndicates that are either racing, or preparing to race, in the forthcoming flat season. That number is dwarfed by individual or sole owners, which currently amounts to 5,300 horses. But those in the racing industry know that shared ownership is the best way to grow the future base of single owners.
“What tends to happen with those that start by joining a syndicate is that they get confident over time in understanding the terminology and the type of investments they are undertaking. Once they’ve enjoyed that so much they then start looking for other syndicate opportunities or even to go it alone in owning a horse.
“Having the support of a syndicate manager and other people sharing the load with you makes you feel more supported. Then you start to look for opportunities which are different or more appealing.
“For example, we have people who only investing horses that run close to their home, or some people like to go racing at another part of the country where they might have relatives and they have invested in syndicates which run horses on those courses,” says Charlie.
Despite being perceived as a very social sport, it can be a lonely affair for owners and part-owners. And one of the aims of the Racehorse Owners Association is to bring together people invested in horses from across the country to share experiences and network.
“44% of racehorse owners left the business due to poor facilities at meetings. What we try to ensure is that at every racecourse there is a warm welcome for our members and that they get the best chances to meet and learn from other people. That is the only way we are going to bring that number down.
“We also organise a number of regional meet and greet events where syndicate members can come and have a look around other stables and meet other trainers to see how the industry works. Some of them may be very happy with the trainers that work on behalf of their syndicates. But the more you can learn, the more this industry will improve and that is what we try to facilitate here at the ROA.”
It’s all part of a push to boost the level of syndicate members. Within the next 18 months those in charge of the sport would have hoped that they would have transformed the administration process, the social experience and the workload of those that want to take a chance on working with a horse.
The average race owner will go to a meeting 21 times a year – the average race goer only one and a half times a year. The aim of the Racehorse Owners Association is to ensure that that experience is pleasurable and also that they can be the middleman between those wanting to offer syndication opportunities and be supportive to those increasing number of people in the football industry that want to take them.
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