Organisers of the Cheltenham Festival have confirmed that they will sell fewer tickets for the 2023 edition in a bid to ‘enhance the experience’ of those in attendance.
As of next year, the capacity for each day of the festival will be capped at 68,500 – shaving around 5,000 attendees from the average daily attendance in 2022.
This year’s edition of the Prestbury Park extravaganza saw record crowds, with a total aggregate of 280,627 boosted by mammoth turnouts on St Patrick’s Day and Gold Cup Day, which both surpassed the 73,000 mark.
However, racegoers complained of a variety of issues that included long queues for toilets and hospitality, a lack of on-site parking and overcrowding around trackside.
Cheltenham have followed the example set by Royal Ascot, who also imposed a maximum capacity per day at the meeting earlier this year.
They shaved off around 7,500 ticket sales, with an emphasis on improving the enjoyment of those on site, having received feedback from visitors during the required reduced capacity in 2021 that having extra space and smaller queues ensured a better time for all.
On Their Best Behaviour
The people have Cheltenham also spoken of an increase in the number of anti-social incidents in the town during festival week, with swearing, fighting and urinating in gardens just some of the behaviour reported to police, alongside absolute chaos for drivers trying to get in and out of Cheltenham.
Gloucestershire’s Crime Commissioner Chris Nelson said:
“I appreciate the difficulty in managing people once they have left the racecourse, particularly when the Festival has such high attendance, but it is also crucial to maintain the goodwill of local residents, and for the racecourse to be a good neighbour.”
Cutting crowd numbers will help to combat some of that, Cheltenham Racecourse officials hope, and the Jockey Club’s representative for the area, Ian Renton, has admitted that the facilities at the track have been ‘stretched’ by increasing attendances.
“It was fantastic to attract capacity crowds on both Thursday and Friday to witness some brilliant racing in glorious sunshine,” he said.
“However, we are well aware that our facilities, even after significant investment in recent years, are stretched at these attendance levels.
“Despite the financial implications of reducing attendance numbers, we will be capping daily capacity at 68,500 in the recognition of the importance of ensuring that The Festival remains an attractive and enjoyable experience for the long-term.”
Based on the sales of 2022, the Tuesday and Wednesday of the Festival won’t be inconvenienced by the cap, with 68,567 through the door on the opening day and then 64,431 attending on what was a rather rainy Ladies Day.
The success of Cheltenham in attracting huge ticket sales is in stark contrast to much of the rest of the UK’s racing landscape, which is still struggling to get people through the turnstiles. As it stands, 2022 has a chance to be the worst year for racing attendances since the turn of the millennium, with numbers reported to be around 17% down on previous levels.