Community Engagement Manager, Sean O’Connor reflects on his first three months with Racing Together

28 Sep 15

I am delighted to have been appointed as Racing Together’s Community Engagement Manager, and am now responsible for the leadership of the programme. This is a great opportunity for British Racing and I’m delighted to see momentum building for the programme and British racing’s impact on the local community.

The business case for community engagement is extremely compelling and our competitor sports such as football, cricket, rugby, athletics, and tennis already invest significantly in community engagement programmes. As Britain’s second best attended sport we have the opportunity, and responsibility, to use racing to connect with people in ways that other businesses cannot.

Racing Together so far

In November last year we announced Aintree as the ‘beacon’ racecourse for Racing Together, leading the way in establishing a network of regional beacon hubs for community engagement. Mainly focusing on education outreach, Aintree has created partnerships with local charities such as Alder Hey Hospital and Liverpool and Everton football clubs. We hope to replicate the achievements at Aintree across the country, illustrating the full force of Racing Together at work.

British racing participated in Give & Gain Day earlier in the year and contributed up to 300 hours of personal time to community engagement work. This kind of work goes on throughout the year though and racecourses up and down the country continue to push ahead with new and innovative ways of connecting with the local community. Wincanton racecourse recently took a picnic to Salisbury Hospital and visited the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust (SSIT) patients. This is part of ongoing work Wincanton is doing with SSIT as a charity partner for the next two years. Beverley racecourse recently came to the aid of local residents by ensuring the cleanliness of the public toilets, decking them with luxury toiletries and posting responsible drinking messages after the council threatened to shut the public toilets, following a particularly busy raceday. In Scotland, Musselburgh has ‘adopted’ their local train station and, among other things, will plant flowers to make it more welcoming.

In order to illustrate the community work ongoing in racing it is important the Racing Together brand is visible throughout the industry, I am therefore particularly appreciative of the racecourses who feature Racing Together in their racecards and on their big screens on racedays.

I was excited to take part in the Open Day Events at Malton and Newmarket, in which the horseracing industry came together with trainers and jockeys to engage with the community in a variety of fun packed activities and competitions; welcoming thousands of visitors to local yards and stables around the Newmarket and Malton areas. This included an opportunity for a look behind the scenes at Godolphin’s two yards and first sight of Jack Berry House. These events were a huge success and it was great opportunity to meet and hear the views of the public.

Following the success of the Dubai Future Champions Education Week project in 2014, 164 Year 8 pupils from Newmarket Academy will participate in the Dubai Future Champions Education Week 2015, from Monday 5 October, culminating in a day’s racing on 9 October, the first day of the inaugural Dubai Future Champions Festival. The programme aims to engage local children with the unique heritage of the local area in which they live, raising the employment aspirations and expectations of the Academy’s students as well as introduce them to the variety of employment opportunities offered by the racing industry.

What the future holds

Whilst racing is not a participation sport in the same way as football or cricket, there are many opportunities for communities to engage with racing, through their local racecourses, as well as local riding schools and Pony Clubs. The Pony Racing Authority (PRA) and the Racing Schools, along with Appletree Stud, Ebony Riding Club, St James City Farm Gloucester and the Lodge Riding Centre Knowsley are holding a number of Academies and schemes designed to get children involved with ponies.

There are many examples of how our sport is building strong collaborative partnerships and links with local businesses and charities to deliver community activity. In my next blog I hope to update you on our relationship with Active Communities Network (ACN), who focus on using sport to empower young people (14-21) to work for a better life, by targeting communities that are deprived, with a number of young people out of work and education.

Get in touch

We want to hear about all of the great community work that’s taking place throughout British Racing. Please email: [email protected] to tell us what you’ve been doing, or what you have planned for the future to get involved with Racing Together and we can help to promote this.

Keep the Racing Together Brand at the forefront of your community engagement material by using the suite of graphics which is downloadable in the ‘USEFUL DOCUMENTS’ sidebar.