British horseracing commercial group The Jockey Club recently completed what it claims is Europe’s largest multi-site installation of free public Wi-Fi across its 15 racecourses, and it is hoped the roll-out will significantly enhance the fan experience on race days.

Free Wi-Fi is now available across all public areas at each of The Jockey Club’s 15 racecourse venues, including grandstands, bars, restaurants, hospitality areas, owners and trainers’ areas, parade rings and concourses.

The roll-out was completed in 2017, with Cheltenham (pictured) having been the first course to go live back in 2014.

David Dommett, group information services director at The Jockey Club, told TheStadiumBusiness.com of the challenges involved with carrying out such a wide-ranging project at a racecourse like Cheltenham, home of the famous Cheltenham Festival.

“The biggest challenge for the project came with the first racecourse to be implemented; Cheltenham,” Dommett said. “This is one of the largest and most complex airspace challenges that any project could possibly encounter.

“Cheltenham is a huge site with many buildings, airspace congestion, customers that flow from parade ring to grandstand and back again, with high concentrations of people in public areas.

“This led to the need to very carefully consider capacity planning and truly understand where and how fans might choose to use Wi-Fi. Our experience in delivering this first and arguably most complex racecourse really helped with the remainder of our nationwide group as we then had a good understanding of what to consider and real-world experience to call upon.

“Feedback has been incredibly positive. I recall an article in Racing Post about Cheltenham entitled ‘Wi-Fi heaven’ which nicely sums up the feedback since we started this project. Today we all expect Wi-Fi in our daily lives, but we don’t expect it to be quite as good as it is at a venue. It’s great to be able to surprise and delight people.”

More and more, venues and sports teams are using technological innovations to enhance the event-going experience and The Jockey Club was conscious of the need to stay ahead of the curve. It is hoped the commercial avenues that will be opened up by the Wi-Fi roll-out will justify the investment.

“Fans increasingly see being ‘connected’ as a basic right,” adds Dommett. “We have delivered a robust and high-performance solution that meets this need and helps them to consume and create content in a variety of ways, whether it be social media, streaming, betting or games without needing to rely on 3G/4G which can be challenging, especially at big events.  

“We have released an Apple and Android app recently that helps to enhance fans’ experience and Wi-Fi is an important enabler of its capability. We have a number of commercial partners who rely on connectivity for how they can help to improve the fan experience and our Wi-Fi is the foundation of this.

“The primary justification of this project was about the fan experience and part of the return on this investment relates to our brand and what we are able to do in terms of fan engagement. We are also able to generate returns through various commercial partner rights we can offer through the Wi-Fi and, in addition, we are building a converged solution upon which our business partners increasingly rely, which means we are able to deliver infrastructure as a service.”

The Jockey Club worked with two Wi-Fi access point providers on the project, which Dommett stressed was “no turn-key solution.”

A content management platform has been developed and integrated with a guest portal solution, with a reporting suite having been developed and integrated with the organisation’s pre-existing CRM platform. Dommett said these steps were taken to deliver “actionable insight around our customers’ behaviours”.

The Jockey Club is also set to launch its britbet pool betting service in July, which will form a key component of fans’ event experience.

“The Wi-Fi will let us do all sorts of things, including having britbet personnel with tablets who can remove the need for customers to queue in the traditional way to place a bet, right through to the excellent connectivity the britbet app will benefit from,” Dommett said.

On future innovations, Dommett added: “The Jockey Club is governed by Royal Charter to reinvest all our profits into British Racing. That means we are constantly investing in our facilities, engaging content and a range of innovations all focused on trying to enhance the fan experience. Horseracing is the UK’s second biggest spectator sport behind only football for attendances, but for many people it’s an annual day of fun. If our efforts can see more people coming more often it would have an incredibly positive impact on our sport.”

This year’s Cheltenham Festival runs from tomorrow (Tuesday) until Friday.

Image: Carine06