Organisers of the inaugural Royal Festival of the Horse have admitted they “got it wrong” after spectators spurned costly entrance tickets, but have vowed to learn from their mistakes.

They admit ticket sales were “disappointing”, with only 20,152 visitors passing through the gates over the three days (9-11 July), despite hoping for around 50,000.

Spectators were “appalled” by the high cost of the event — tickets were £20 for entry, plus a further £20 for grandstand seating.

Sandra Curtis from Hull was disappointed by the costs: “The price of admission is scandalous and then to ask people to pay again for a seat is outrageous. I saw people going away from the gate when they found out how much it was to get in.”

And many were unaware there would be no free viewing for the main arena.

But the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) has promised to learn from the feedback.

Spokesman Alice Bell told H&H: “We made a mistake. We were overly ambitious with the pricing. Moving on, we will have lower ticket prices, make it clearer how the ticketing works and take a different approach to marketing.”

She also admitted the show made a “considerable loss” leaving a “sizeable black hole” in RASE finances. But dates have already been set for next year. “We believe the show could be a great success, but we will need to invest in that. We will improve and listen — we’re not the old, arrogant RASE we used to be,” she added.

Tradestands suffered from poor attendance. Alan Cousins from Cousins of Cheltenham, who has been at the Royal Show for the past 25 years, was “appalled” by the lack of publicity.

“They’ve shot themselves in the foot — I won’t be coming back. I thought they were amateurs five years ago — and they still are. They’ve got it completely wrong — again. We paid £3,500 to come here and we’ll be lucky to take £2,000.”

Showing competitors had niggles too, mainly regarding the ground and high entry prices.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (15 July, ’10)