Top sports promoter Barry Hearn is backing Royal Ascot’s racecourse executive to get tough with unruly behaviour – but warns it comes at a high cost.
At next week’s Royal meeting, racegoers attending the Berkshire track could find themselves breathalysed and turned away as part of a crackdown on incidents of violence on racecourses.
Ugly brawls have marred meetings at Goodwood and Ascot this year, and the use of sniffer dogs, drugs amnesty boxes and increased security are among new measures introduced at several tracks, including Royal Ascot.
Hearn, whose wife Susan owns and breeds racehorses, has a wealth of experience as the promoter of major worldwide snooker, darts and boxing events, at all of which alcohol is served.
The Matchroom Promotions boss says he understands the need for racecourses to sell alcohol, but insists the courses have to take responsibility to stamp out any trouble.
Hearn said: “Last year, at the world darts championship, we out-drunk the Munich Beer Festival.
“The rowdy elements don’t matter. The rowdy elements have to be controlled. I will always ask the question: So, what was your security like?
“Don’t tell me they are rowdy – customers are customers. Sort them out.
“Scottish football won’t let you drink inside their grounds. That is a disaster. Why? Because customers will drink in the pub opposite (the ground and the clubs aren’t even getting their money.
“What you’ve got to do is take the responsibility to sort it out – but don’t ignore the way the world is going, because if you say to a punter ‘you can’t have a drink’, or there isn’t enough facilities, or the customer experience is not right, then you won’t keep the customer.
“What you have to make sure is that when he is there, he’s controlled.
“But people shy away and say, ‘Oh, he’s unruly’. I don’t have unruly people – I sling the f*****s out. I would sling out, at a world darts championship, a minimum of 50-100 people every night.
“But I spend a fortune on security. There is no publicity. They just disappear. They are gone. But you have to have the right people doing the right job – that is just common sense.
“You don’t want people stewarding who want to fight, or people who are frightened of a fight. You need people who can handle that sort of situation and who don’t tolerate that sort of behaviour, because it affects your whole brand value.”
The five-day Royal meeting, which starts next Tuesday, will be devoid of ‘beer hawkers’ or mobile alcohol sellers.
Ascot is determined to ensure a positive racegoer-experience. Other stringent measures being introduced include more than 20 specially-trained dogs to seek out those in possession of illegal drugs, a highly visible 100-strong response team trained and equipped to carry out early intervention and evictions, and breath-testing of customers on arrival who are showing overt signs of inebriation. Such persons will be denied entry.
“The use of illegal drugs and their contribution to anti-social behaviour is a significant issue for all major events,” said Ascot chief executive Guy Henderson.
“This year we will continue proactively to address these challenges with an increased specialist security team, supported by more visible stewarding around bar and other areas in order to pre-empt incidents arising from excess alcohol consumption or other anti-social behaviour.”
For the first time, American broadcaster NBC will televise the Saturday of Royal Ascot live on their main channel from 9am to 1pm ET. NBCSN will present four-and-a-half hours of live daily coverage of the Royal Meeting to American audiences. Former Channel 4 Racing presented Nick Luck will host the daily coverage for the American audience.
Yarmouth: 2.00 Frank Cool, 2.30 Emily Goldfinch, 3.00 Deputise (NAP), 3.30 Kirkland Forever, 4.00 Polar Light, 4.30 Effervescence, 5.00 Breanski, 5.30 Carribean Spring
Haydock: 2.10 Volcanic Sky, 2.40 New Winds (nb), 3.10 Swiss Knight, 3.40 Dragons Tail, 4.10 Magellan, 4.40 River Glades, 5.10 Viscount Loftus
Chelmsford (AW): 2.20 I’ll Have Another, 2.50 Miconize, 3.20 Courtside, 3.50 Seniority, 4.20 Tropics, 4.50 Homeopathic, 5.20 Court Of Justice
Hamilton: 6.00 Jack Blane, 6.30 Diviner, 7.00 Rosemay, 7.30 Mr Wagyu, 8.00 Diamond Avalanche, 8.30 Logi, 9.00 Thornaby Princess
Kempton (AW): 6.10 Kingston Kurrajong, 6.40 Moon Song, 7.10 Moving Forward, 7.40 Juneau, 8.10 Rose Berry, 8.40 Zain Star, 9.10 Mount Cleshar