Clare Balding has revealed she feels that racing could do significantly more to increase its diversity.
The former horse racing presenter made the claims after learning the BHA has set up its very first Diversity In Racing Steering Group, tasked with supporting the industry in its efforts to enhance its diversity and inclusivity.
Clare, sister of flat trainer Andrew Balding, nominated several aspects of diversity for improvement, with gender and visual impairment featuring among the most prominent.
She said: “I think for gender equality, that diversity group should be looking at trying to reach more girls at a younger age and showing them there is a career in racing. Racing is desperate for people to come and work in it.
“I think also, you either do it by punishment or reward. You either insist that people promote and use women or you reward them for doing so, and I would rather go down the reward route, which is why I think it is a good idea to offer something like a weight allowance.
“That is essentially a reward to both the jockey, because they get an advantage, and the trainer and owner who booked them, because then everybody benefits.
“There should be some sort of incentive for employing a female jockey a certain number of times. Trainers don’t need another trophy in their cabinet, they really don’t, but what if there were grants available for getting a certain score in terms of your promotion of women?
“Even if it was a free Racing Post for the year, just something that says well done, we recognise what you’re doing here, it’s a step in the right direction, here’s an incentive.”
Other aspects of diversity
Clare also spoke of ways to improve the raceday experience for those with disabilities.
She added: “On a more general point I think they could do a lot more in terms of the racial diversity of racegoers, and I think they could a lot more for wheelchair accessibility and making racing a very friendly course for anybody whose eyesight is failing or their hearing is poor. I think we could have audio loops.
“I think for the visually impaired it’s a really good sport, as long as they can properly hear the commentary. Very few sports that you go to actually commentate live on the action.
“You go to football and there’s not a commentary on, the same with rugby and tennis, you can’t enjoy that at all as a live event if you are visually impaired.
“Whereas I think with racing you really can, and you can feel the buzz of it, but you also know what is happening.”