Like it or loathe it, BHA puts accent on authority in revamp

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Like it or loathe it,
BHA puts accent on authority in revamp

In his fortnightly look at racing on the web, Robin Gibson takes a look the BHA’s makeover of its website

IT’S not much fun being an official governing and regulatory body. The governing remit can be misunderstood and the regulatory role resented. You keep your Facebook page up to date and get comments like this: “BHA are destroying racing . . . just look at this page, a public face and access point, yet they can’t even keep it up to date. All they think about is trying to copy other sports . . . big shake-up is required. Get some true racing people back in charge.”

Frankly, that’s over the top. Then you unveil a new logo and you get only one ‘like’.

Then you revamp your website and someone fires straight in with “Bloody nightmare to navigate on phone compared to old version”.

No, there’s not much love for governing and regulatory bodies. And they are soft targets – a bit like organised religion or estate agents, unable to hit back with equally vehement denunciation.

You can say this for the BHA, though – at least it exists. Look at table tennis. It doesn’t even have a recognised governing body for Britain, just regional ones for England, Scotland and Wales.

There’s no-one at all anywhere in Britain governing skipping, quoits or Aussie rules, which is a worry. And many more prominent sports including football and cricket are as intent on resisting the union as ping-pong players and the SNP.

Now the BHA, having been around for seven years, has relaunched its website ( – don’t look up unless you want to know about industrial air filtration).

It’s not before time. The organisation has launched good spin-offs but the mothership, despite a vast and interesting cargo, was becalmed and rusty, not to mention tricky to read without some sort of microscope.

The site has been redesigned by Firedog, an agency so trendy that their office is in Hoxton Square. A testimonial on the Firedog site says: “Firedog are aptly named. A loyal companion to walk by your side on the difficult road of brand development but with just the right amount of heat and spark.”

But don’t worry about that. The BHA hasn’t gone all Nathan Barley.

It’s just tried to supply a “cleaner design with more logical navigation”. It also wants to be fully responsive for mobile devices, not a “bloody nightmare”.

Let’s address the aspirations. Well, not only does it work on mobile and tablet, once you grasp the basic navigation it’s easy.

The site is divided into four areas – race info (cards, results, stewards’ reports, horses, jockeys and so on), resource centre (disciplinaries, licences, ratings, fixture list, rules microsite), news and media (as you’d expect, including the excellent handicappers’ blogs) and a general ‘about’.

The design is clean, with bold but neat upper-case typography and straightforward dropdowns complemented by a tiling system for each zone that turns into a scrolling menu on mobile.

Hardly a nightmare, unless your average, every-night dream consists of you and Catherine Deneuve celebrating a massive win for your lottery system and the outbreak of world peace.

Beneath the top layer, it occasionally becomes tricky. The 2014 fixture list won’t fit into even the most generous palm and with things like that, where you’re sent to PDF, it is never going to be the slickest mobile experience.

Nevertheless it strives, offering files alternatively in Word or Excel.

There’s a limit to what can be done. If you try to read the entire fixture list on Google Glass, you’ll be rubbing your frames a lot, your eyeballs might pop out or prolapse, and for whatever happens after that you’ve only got your own poor judgement to blame.

THE challenge for the BHA – and what some blockheads who rubbish it for some minor Facebook faux pas don’t realise – is that the ‘A’ is just that. It has a fair bit to be authoritative about.

Take the Racecourse section. The first document, the Racecourse Manual, is a blueprint for starting an actual racecourse, from scratch, covering areas such as banking of bends, drainage and lay-bys, all matters that might not concern the average fan.

But if you are thinking of starting one, make sure you have a reservoir, borehole or river. Four weeks of drought and you’ll need 5.04 million litres of water. That’s precise. On the other hand, be properly prepared for waterlogging.

A starter’s rostrum, to enable traditional mounting, should be no less than 1.35m high, with a handrail and steps. There are handy diagrams, of both courses and rostrums. You’ll need to provide a midden (muck heap) for soiled bedding. Empty it between meetings.

Provide not just stables, but also a covered area for ‘arm-band’ officials. Prevent ingress to the commentary box by birds or vermin.

Get your angles right (they’re all in the spec) and make sure you’ve a moveable winning post in case everything else goes wrong.

Okay, the manual’s 130-plus pages might not be of practical use to non-professionals but even a light anorak will find it fascinating and it’s just an example of what can be dug out from deep in the BHA mine.

On the surface, it does a good job of linking BHA-centric stuff to the database: search a horse and it serves up not only performance but also info about all related inquiries, reports and disciplinaries.

On first inspection, it seems pretty much everything links to anything it should – which is not bad, as there is a lot of stuff there.

At the gates, you could argue that the impressive home page, despite making good use of large pics, is a bit generic, with a ‘general news’ focus on the big races. You could also argue that leading your website with news about nematode worms and disciplinary panel hearings might be too dry. Overall, it’s not really that important.


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