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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Recruitment Genius: Glazier

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist historic buildi...

Recruitment Genius: Luxury Brand - Retail Sales Assistant - Part or Full Time

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Luxury Jeweller and Accessories - Retail Sale...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Designer is required to j...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most