ITV Director of Sport Niall Sloane calls for racing to simplify its language

I have been reading with interest the comments made by ITV Director of Sport Niall Sloane in regards to horse racings need to simplify its language to attract a wider audience be it on TV or the racecourse. Niall was speaking at the Asian Racing Conference in Seoul.

A number of points were raised and discussed. For example, referring to the Saturday magazine programme The Opening Show as a key component of ITV's coverage, Sloane warned there was a danger of people "not knowing what we're talking about.” He continued “Why is the language so difficult to understand? What is 'on the bridle', what is 'off the bridle'? What are guineas, and is the 2,000 prize as good as the 1,000? Why are there different sorts of fences – water, plain and open ditches? What does it mean if a horse carries 9st 7lb? Can anyone in this room really say that a serious effort has been made to explain all this? This a complex sport and needs all the help it can get."

I’d hate to think the game needs to be dumbed-down for the masses and hopefully ITV as a leader in its field, they just won a BAFTA for their coverage of the Grand National, can find the answers.

Let’s face it every sport has its jargon: Cricket has a ‘deep backward point’ and ‘backward square leg’, American Football has ‘Cornerbacks’ and ‘Wide receivers’ and I am told Tom Daly can do a ‘back 2 1/2 somersault in the tuck position’ – I did one of them once but that was off a table in a nightclub in Ayia Napa years ago!

I would be all for short films explaining the terminology of horse racing and betting during the coverage of the major meetings on ITV such as Royal Ascot, Cheltenham and The Derby. As far as I am concerned anything rather than those damn fashion segments telling me what hat people should be wearing or whether my red waistcoat is on trend.

There were a number of speakers including Oonagh Chan, senior consultant, media, technology and content production at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. She talked a lot about how racing, and sports coverage in general, needs to adapt to change and the latest technology. One of her suggestions "For example mounting a 360-degree camera on top of a jockey's helmet during an actual race, enables viewers to change the camera angle in order to watch the other horses in the race and that changes the way that the race is being viewed."

A novel idea, not that I am sure what you would really learn as the fixed jockey-cams used now don’t really show you much; at least you’d be able to see where your money is going as your horse fades out of contention in the final furlong I suppose.

It will be interesting to see what materialises.