The Jockey Club, the largest commercial group in British horseracing1
, and Channel 4, the exclusive UK terrestrial television broadcaster of the sport, are partnering for a government-funded digital innovation contest with the aim of increasing understanding and appreciation of racing in the UK.
The 'IC tomorrow Digital Innovation Contest – Sport', a Technology Strategy Board digital innovation programme, aims to support the UK technology sector by offering £125,000 in funding to all-comers, spread across five sport industry challenges.
The Jockey Club, which owns 15 racecourses including Aintree, Cheltenham and Epsom Downs, and Channel 4, which broadcasts 88 days of racing a year, the most terrestrial TV coverage of any sport, are delivery partners in the 'Sport appreciation and understanding' challenge. This is based on a shared view that innovations and digital technologies can help to aid people's understanding and enjoyment of horseracing, whether they are new to the sport or to add to the experience for the most passionate racing fan.
While it is hoped the output of the IC tomorrow challenge will help to 'demystify' racing, the sport is enjoying something of a renaissance. British racing's most iconic events, such as the Cheltenham Festival, Grand National Meeting, Investec Derby Festival and Royal Ascot, have never welcomed larger paying crowds and today horseracing is the second most attended sport in the UK with circa 6 million spectators annually, placing it behind only football.
Research conducted by Populus, commissioned by The Jockey Club, suggests the sport has doubled its popularity levels, with 20% of the UK adult population saying they are interested in horseracing in 2013, compared to 10% three years ago.
"We’re looking for innovation that can help to make it easier for people to understand and enjoy horseracing as an incredible sport, not just a great day out," said Scott Bowers, Group Director of Communications, The Jockey Club.
"Racing is already the country’s second largest spectator sport, with the most terrestrial TV coverage of any sport, but technology can help to demystify racing and add to its appeal, without in any way dumbing it down. A better use of data or a new innovation could also add to the experience for the most knowledgeable racing fan, so it’s exciting to think of the possibilities this challenge could inspire."
"We’re on the lookout for technology that will enhance our broadcasts and deepen the engagement and consumption for viewers," said James Rutherford, Channel 4’s Multi-platform Commissioner for Sport. "Our strong preference is that it offers enhanced mobile presence around racing, video functionality, data or developing the on-course experience."
The other challenge partners for 'IC tomorrow Digital Innovation Contest - Sport' are BT Sport (Driving in-play viewer engagement), Loughborough University (Personalising sport performance), UK Sport (Tracking athlete health) and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games (Engaging the live stadium audience).
IC tomorrow’s Programme Manager Matt Sansam said, "A key aim of the ‘Digital Innovation Contest – Sport’ is providing winning applicants with the chance to work with and benefit from the experience of some of the UK’s most established sporting brands – and the associated networking opportunities this will entail.
"It’s not necessary to have an existing app or service or to be currently active in the sports industry – but proposed solutions must have the potential to appeal to a wider commercial market and must address the contest challenges."
All contest entries must be submitted online by noon on Wednesday 14th August 2013. A briefing event will be held on Wednesday 17th July 2013 in London and the contest final is scheduled for Wednesday 11th September 2013.
More information about the contest including how to apply is available at: https://connect.innovateuk.org/web/digital-innovation-contest-sport
By turnover (£141.2m), racecourses (15), attendances (2012: 1.8m), quality racing (Group and Graded), total prize money (2012: £35.3m) and contribution to prize money (2012: £16.5m)