ED SHEERAN, bad weather and uncertainty about the future of Musselburgh Racecourse have all contributed to a fall in attendance sales this year, it has been claimed, as the future of the course’s popular Ladies Day was called into question.

Bill Farnsworth, the racecourse general manager, said big race days including Ladies Day had failed to generate the income expected as attendance was hit by outside factors.

He told the first public meeting of Musselburgh Racecourse Associated Committee (MRAC) on Tuesday that it had been a difficult start to the year.

He said: “Easter Saturday, Ladies Day and Scottish Sprint Cup all came in under budget.

“Although Ladies Day sold out, our income is still down, partly due to more people purchasing at a lower ticket price and the cancellation of a marquee for 400 people due to lack of demand.”

Mr Farnsworth added that Easter Saturday sales were down by over £21,000 due mainly to the bad weather which swept across the country, while they had to abandon racing at the course on April 5 because it had become waterlogged.

He said: “Overall attendance is down £85,000 on the budget.

“There were three nights of Ed Sheeran concerts affecting the first Saturday in June and on the second one The Rolling Stones and Beyonce were playing.

“We feel that had an impact on our Saturday Race Days. Many who come to the Saturday Race Days see it as an event that perhaps they do one day a year and may have chosen the concerts instead this year.”

Mr Farnsworth also revealed that Ladies Day was being reviewed after the demographic of its attendees became markedly different this year.

He said a push on social media had seen younger people going to the glamorous event who were “more interested in socialising and drinking than the actual racing”.

And he said that the course team was looking at how it could make Ladies Day more of an event and avoid problems some racecourses have had in England, referencing Worcester Racecourse, which came under fire last month for allegedly putting profits first by packing in spectators for its Ladies Day, leaving trainers and owners crammed into heavily criticised facilities.

Councillor Katie Mackie, committee member, asked whether Ladies Day had “had its day”, adding: “Maybe it is time for something else.”

Mr Farnsworth replied: “That is the big question and it is a difficult question to ask our team because it is a big day. We have always tried to make our Ladies Day a classy day.”

Mr Farnsworth said the day had been affected by a change of date, as well as the loss of the Edinburgh Cup race from the event.

He added: “I am not comfortable with what happened this year.”

However, he confirmed that there were no plans to cancel next year’s Ladies Day, though the event would be reviewed and would be held on Derby Day.

The racecourse was brought under the control of MRAC after the British Horseracing Authority threatened to withdraw its racing licence late last year as its governance under the former managing body Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee was reviewed.

Mr Farnsworth said uncertainty about the licence had been a factor in some of the attendance this year.

Councillor Fiona O’Donnell, MRAC chairwoman, said there had been a marked increase in ticket sales after the licence was confirmed.

Mr Farnsworth confirmed this was the case but added: “It was a big jump on poor sales.”