Epsom in a call to the multitude

Saturday's Derby has a tough task in attracting crowds. Greg Wood reports

For a millionaire sports fan with a helicopter and a full tank of petrol, this weekend has the potential to be the experience of a lifetime. On Saturday, you could catch the opening session of the First Test between England and India at Edgbaston in Birmingham, fly to Epsom for the Derby at 2.25pm, and then make a swift exit towards Wembley with just enough time to spare to catch the Euro '96 kick-off between England and Switzerland.

The problem for the organisers of these events, of course, is that the average sports fan does not have such resources at their disposal, and in Britain this Saturday the competition for the pound in their pockets is fiercer than ever before.

While England's match at Wembley sold out before Christmas, those who must sell tickets for the alternative attractions have been forced, to a greater or lesser extent, to react to the challenge of the country's most important sporting event for 30 years.

The threat has been felt most keenly at Epsom, which has gone so far as to move the Derby, which far pre-dates both international cricket and football, from its traditional place in mid-afternoon. The world's most famous Classic will now be the second race on Saturday's card, sandwiched between two handicaps, to permit both television viewers and racegoers, should they so wish, to devote the remainder of the afternoon to football.

Diamond-vision screens at Epsom will show England's match unless a race is actually in progress, while other televisions around the course will not even make that small concession to the racing.

Admission prices have also been cut, from pounds 50 to pounds 40 in the Club enclosure, while the change to bring a car and as many passengers as it can hold into the centre of the course has been halved, from pounds 20 down to pounds 10.

In one respect, the Derby beats all its competitors out of sight. While Wembley tickets cost between pounds 25 and pounds 75 and those at Edgbaston from pounds 13 to pounds 35, it is still possible to watch the Derby from the Downs for free, while entry to three of the enclosures costs pounds 10 or less.

None the less, the attendance figures will be of considerable interest to those who feel that the Derby belongs on a Wednesday, and despite the counter-attractions, a significant increase on last year's total of 56,000 will be required if the switch to Saturday is to be considered a success.

At Edgbaston, Dennis Amiss, Warwickshire's chief executive, has few such worries. "We're very pleased at the way ticket sales are going," he said yesterday. "We've sold around 18,000 of our 20,000 capacity and we should have 15,000 on Friday, and if people want to watch the football, we've probably got more televisions at the ground than the local shop has for sale.''

The most important factor affecting attendance at Epsom, however, may have nothing to do with the sporting alternatives on offer. If, as seems likely, potential racegoers open their curtains on Saturday morning to find that a fine day is in prospect, the crowds, particularly on the exposed Downs and cheaper enclosures, could swell significantly.

For a true sports fan, after all, there can be no substitute for being there. For those without a Wembley ticket, watching the football on a television at Epsom is little different - and might indeed be rather more atmospheric - than watching from the sofa.

If the weather is kind, the stiff competition which confronts the Derby may have rather less effect than the pessimists might suppose.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game