GIVEN the challenges facing racing as a sport, it could be argued that the altering of the dress code by the Jockey Club in Britain is unlikely to be the sport’s saviour. If it has a positive effect, then good on them for doing so.
After all, when you read the small print there remains a code, albeit a more relaxed one. No replica sports shirts, offensive or fancy dress will be tolerated. One person’s outlandish style might be deemed offensive by another. Even if they are considered out of date or archaic by some, simple rules like wearing a jacket are easy to understand.
Before you believe that I am just being old-fashioned, and against any change, let me assure you that I am not. If relaxing a dress code is going to bring a flood of racing fans through the gates of racecourses, I will welcome the move. Do I believe that it will? I would have to say no.
We need more radical thinking than amending the rules about what we wear to positively change the numbers attending racing. There is no silver bullet that would tomorrow bring crowds back, but rather we need to make sure that we are offering them what they want. I hear more complaints about other aspects of racing, and its perceived faults, than I have ever heard about the attire we sport.
The term ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ was introduced into English law during the Victorian era, and is still an important concept in common law. It is used by the courts where it is necessary to decide whether a party has acted as a reasonable person would. We more often nowadays refer to that person as the man, or woman, in the street.
In the rarefied world of racing, we sometimes lose touch with what the man/woman in the street wants, or how they perceive the racing product. Do they believe that we are still operating a dishonest regime, where every race is ‘fixed’ and we, as insiders, know all the answers? There exists an element of this for sure, whether we like it or not.
Having a clean sport, be that at the level of gambling or drug administration, is at the heart of what we need, and this will ensure that racing makes appeal into the future.
Moves, such as those being adopted by Aintree ahead of this year’s Randox Grand National on horse welfare, will do more for racing’s positive image as a sport than any change to what we wear ever will.