To my knowledge a new record was set at Southwell Racecourse last Friday when just 13 paying customers arrived at the track. The bitter cold and schedule reorganisation were offered as reasons for the surely record breaking turnout.
The data on attendance at UK meetings from 1989 to 2015 shows that prior to Southwell last Friday, the previous lowest attendance was at Wolverhampton in December 2012. This meeting was held three days before Christmas – 111 showed up and only 5 bookmakers were present on course.
From 1989 to 2015, 952 UK meetings have attracted below 500 punters. The data shows that 644 (67%) of these were held at Wolverhampton racetrack. Southwell held the second highest percentage of meetings with under 500 attendees - 123 meetings (19%). Along with Lingfield, these meetings at these tracks appear to be designed for bookmakers shops and off-course bettors rather than racegoers. It is also the case that the vast majority of races run at these tracks are on an all-weather surface. Wolverhampton Racecourse only hosts all-weather events on its recently installed Tapeta surface.
The weather, and perhaps the Christmas season, appear to be important regulators for meetings in this <500 club too. The chart below shows the data by month for the 952 meetings. Typically, these events fall into months with adverse weather conditions. While not denying the importance of race quality and facilitates,, this might be something authorities need to consider more when organising the racing calendar to help smaller racetracks improve attendances. That is of course, if the motivation is to attract greater attendances.