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TV, Racing Promotion Discussed At WTC

Published: June 13, 2013 1:59 pm ET

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Discussion of television and technology’s positions in racing and the promotion of racing and racetracks shared the spotlight on the third day of the World Trotting Conference in France.

France’s considerable investment in television technology was outlined by Eric Brion, general director of Equidia, the country’s national equine and racing network. Brion revealed that the network spends €35 million each year to bring horse sports and racing to the public, and he also said that Equidia will be debuting a great deal of new content in the coming months.

That new content will likely drive growth for PMU, the French off-track betting corporation, whose director of marketing, Cyrille Giraudat, said will soon make an investment in web and phone-based betting platforms to help achieve that growth.

Finland’s Jussi Lähde, editor of the magazine Hevosurheilu, announced his publication’s venture into a free, web-based TV network that will take a unique tack towards drawing fans to harness racing.

“Horses and horse racing are really just one thing: passion,” Lähde said. “People may not understand horses, but they understand passion and that understanding will help them understand our sport.”

John Pawlak of the U.S. Trotting Association updated the delegates about TV efforts in America and Geoff Want, president of Harness Racing Australia, stressed the importance of television and technology and challenged the world’s racing countries to embrace it --- or perish.

The panel on promotion featured Isabelle Coltier, who highlighted the active promotional calendar at l’Hippodrome Paris-Vincennes, and Kriistina Ertola, who is on the board of directors of Finland’s Suomen Hippos, showed a film chronicling the success of the annual 'Coronation Races,' which is one of that country’s major sporting events.

Tore Fyrand, general director of Sweden’s Solvalla Racetrack, home of the Elitlopp, told of how he had found a dysfunctional operation when he took the job, but of the steps he’s taken to instill a new corporate culture.

“Every Tuesday we gather all our managers, contractors (concessionaires) and employees; we serve coffee and a snack and we discuss how we can make things better for the fans,” Fyrand said. “People speak freely, admit when they’ve made a mistake and provide ideas for improvement they can make. We’ve made everyone a part of management decisions and have found that attitudes are completely positive now.”

Patrick Davidson, a fan since being born into a trainer’s family in The Netherlands, was among those who rolled up their sleeves and set about resuscitating racing at Victoria Park in Wolvega, the country’s leading track, which almost closed a couple of years ago.

“Hope is not a strategy,” Davidson observed. “We had an investor and a commitment, and had to work hard to develop and then implement a real strategy. We started a year with absolutely no racing dates planned and turned Wolvega into an attractive destination for fans and bettors.”

The delegates will tour the Chateau Grosbois training centre this evening before convening on Friday morning for their next-to-last session. On Saturday, once business is closed for 2013, the delegates will travel to Vincennes for the final heat of the 2013 World Driving Championship and the Prix du President, a major under saddle race and the highlight of Paris’ summer trotting season.


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