Sean O’Connor appointed as Racing Together’s Community Engagement Manager

27 Aug 15

The BHA has underlined its commitment to Racing Together by appointing Sean O’Connor as Racing Together’s Community Engagement Manager. This news has been announced in the Racecourse Association’s Inside Track, full article below:


Racing Together is coming together. The project, officially launched at a parliamentary reception in November 2014 to act as an umbrella for British racing’s community engagement programme across the whole sport, is about to emerge from its Phase 1 stage with the aim of building momentum towards becoming a credible and recognised household brand.

Racing Together’s Community Engagement Manager, Sean O’Connor explains: “Our vision for British racing is quite simply to be recognised as outstanding among sports for its contribution to the communities in which it operates, and Phase 2 is designed to capitalise on the good work that has been done to date.”

Racecourses play a huge part in community engagement so far. Eighty per cent of courses hold racedays to raise funds for local charitable causes, as well as those directly involving the industry, and 10,000 young people a year visit nearby tracks under the Racing to School education programme run by BHEST.

However, an audit by Business in the Community highlighted a lack of cohesion across this work and drew the conclusion that existing community activity was not seen to be part of business plans or strategies, while it was further agreed that levels of community engagement in British racing should be lifted and become more visible. From this audit Racing Together was created and the BHA has taken over the lead role, with chief executive Nick Rust declaring: “The BHA is completely committed to Racing Together, and over the last two months we have developed a very clear plan, with resources put in place.”

Confirmation that Sean O’Connor, who has been involved for three months on a voluntary basis, will become the Community Engagement Manager on a permanent basis is one of the first steps.

O’Connor says: “Good progress has been made since the November 2014 launch, notably the development of a suite of documents relating to Racing Together that can be used by racecourses, the launch of a 24-month pilot in which Aintree has become the first Beacon racecourse, and the racecourses’ participation in a nationwide ‘Give and Gain Day.’

“Now we’re ready to move forward, and it’s vitally important that we build momentum in the programme by forging collaborative links outside the boundaries of the sport and extending our reach into the community.”

Plans include cementing partnerships with Business in the Community and charities such as Active Communities (ACN), which recently recruited jockey Hayley Turner as an ambassador, and Recovery Career Services.

O’Connor says: “For the rest of this year, when we want to demonstrate cohesion across the whole programme, our plans include continuing to build on Aintree’s Beacon status and focusing on two forerunner racecourses – probably Lingfield and Doncaster – which are among a number that have formed collaborative partnerships and links with other sports and community-based charities.

“There will be a subset of further events across Britain, leading up to another parliamentary reception in November, as part of ramping up our public profile.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that over the duration of this parliament British racing will come under even closer political, media and media scrutiny during the passage of any primary legislation to amend the way racing is funded.”

Stressing the BHA’s commitment, Nick Rust says: “We have responsibility for taking Racing Together under the umbrella of our activities to support community engagement and participant welfare and training.

“It’s our responsibility to secure funding and ensure there are appropriate resources to manage the programme and work with the racecourses.”

Rust adds: “We need to make sure that the general public, and in particular local communities where racecourses are, realise the value of racing and their racecourse to the local community, and how they can play their part in getting involved by using the resources and facilities that a racecourse can provide.

“I have personal experience of corporate responsibility projects at work elsewhere, at Sky and within the bookmaking industry, for instance, and they work. It’s a great way to reach out and make clear what our sport is about. They will give British racing much better connection with consumers and local communities, and a by-product of that is a stronger influence with local and central government, in terms of what our sport is about and what it does for communities.

“It’s a win-win all round, because we do provide some tangible difference for participants but we also can connect with large numbers of local people who can become involved with or advocates of the sport’s cause.”