Positive start to first live-streamed pointing season *H&H Plus*

  • Thousands of viewers watched on live stream as this year’s pointing season got off to a successful early start, live-streamed for the first time in the sport’s history. H&H speaks to some of those involved in the restart.

    POINT-TO-POINTING marked a milestone moment on its early opening to the season, as thousands of viewers watched a “live” stream for the first time in the sport’s history.

    Devon & Cornwall area kicked off the season behind closed doors on 24 October with the East Devon fixture at Bishop’s Court, featuring a full card of eight races and 80 runners.

    The livestream, run by We Stream Events and hosted by former BBC racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght, and Lizzie Kelly, drew more than 18,000 viewers. The average viewing time from the core 4,788 viewers was 28 minutes. Streaming was free and there are plans as to how it can be monetised.

    A team from the Devon & Cornwall area have been working since March to get streaming running, which is broadcast with a fractional delay in line with betting integrity regulations, and was made possible with the help of funding from Totnes and Bridgetown Races.

    Speaking on Wednesday (28 October), area secretary Gordon Chambers told H&H Saturday was a “real test”, not helped by the “typical point-to-point weather”, but they were thrilled to get the streaming – and the season – going successfully.

    “Devon & Cornwall put our necks on the line and spent a considerable sum investing in equipment,” Mr Chambers told H&H.

    “We set the bar for other areas, who have seen what can be done and are looking at how they can go about it.”

    He added getting the sport going was very important on many levels, not only from the racing side, but because pointing involves a predominantly rural community that, at the moment, can feel particularly isolated.

    The live-stream meant those people could still be connected to the sport and where Covid restrictions allowed, owners and supporters could meet up in groups of up to six to watch remotely.

    The Ledbury at Maisemore the following day drew more than 7,000 views and a peak audience of 850, to watch 101 runners across 10 races. Both fixtures also showed demand from the different groups in sport, from the more traditional to the commercial.

    The Ledbury fixture looked in doubt ahead of Sunday, but the organisers managed to satisfy all the local authority’s additional demands to run safely.

    “It was essential we kept going and got the season off the ground,” said West Midlands area chairman Jim Squires on Wednesday, praising all involved. “The number of runners shows the horses are there, people want to run and that justifies starting this season early.”

    The trainer-jockey team of Melanie Rowley and Alex Edwards ended the weekend as early leaders of their respective championships with five winners.

    Alex, who also spoke to H&H days ahead of the new lockdown announcement on Saturday night (31 October), said the organisers and Point-to-Point Authority (PPA) did a “fantastic job”.

    “The racing was very competitive, it always is early in the season, and the courses were in great nick,” he said, also praising the streaming as “something that has to continue”.

    “There are some very good horses that come through British pointing — we really think a lot of the horses we ran and there were some very nice horses from other yards in those races.”

    He added he hopes streaming could benefit the sport in many ways, by bringing it to more people, allowing the owners and supporters who could not come to still enjoy the day, as well as the financial and sponsorship potential it has.

    Speaking on Tuesday (27 October), PPA chief executive Peter Wright said: “It always takes a lot of volunteer effort to run a point-to-point, but this year takes that to a whole different level.

    “What is often forgotten is that, despite being an amateur sport, we support thousands of jobs in the rural community, particularly youth. Getting going was absolutely vital for them, and I feel sure we can build on this weekend’s success.”

    On Sunday (1 November) a PPA spokesman said the organisation “is talking to all the necessary people to see where we stand going forward before making an announcement” on fixtures scheduled for the lockdown period.

    Mr Squires added the Wheatland fixture on 8 November is asking people to enter as normal and entries will be refunded if the meeting cannot run.

    “It may take the PPA a couple of days to know the way forward,” he said, thanking everyone for their patience.