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.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all