PASS revamped: everything you need to know

Complimentary entry to the vast majority of British racecourses is about to become slicker, more secure and more consistent, thanks to a makeover to the swipe-card admission system, which will also provide greater interaction with key customers.

Pass – the privileged access swipe system – has been in operation for 20 years as a partnership between the Racecourse Association and Weatherbys.  After a joint detailed review of the current system it was decided that PASS needed to be changed and updated in order to keep pace with technological advances.

Holly Cook, the RCA’s racecourse services manager, who has been responsible for seeking out alternatives since September 2014, explains: “It’s a testament to the efficiency of PASS that 20 years on it continues to work on a daily basis, but clearly it’s not a modern system, and although we’ve kept it under review, there was always going to come a time when it needed to be updated. Weatherbys’ advice gave us the impetus to create something new.”

While complimentary entry is a feature of horseracing the world over, “a lot of people seem to think they have a right to go racing for free,” Cook says, “and that leads to a certain level of frustration among racecourses.”

PASS was introduced in 1996-97 as a way of helping racecourses to manage and control complimentary access, particularly concerning racehorse owners.

Cook explains: “Before then owners would ring the racecourse and they would leave an envelope on the gate. Anybody could turn up and say they were the owner.

“Allocation of badges has always been at the racecourse’s discretion but generally owners were given in the region of four to six badges, which is still the case, but there was no way of verifying that the person who showed up to collect the badges was who they said they were, and there was no central monitoring.

“PASS was originally devised for owners, but over the years it’s been extended to other areas, particularly RCA metal badgeholders. It works for the press, trainers and jockeys, and a few other categories such as bloodstock agents, as well as schemes for members of the ROA and TBA.

“There are up to 20,000 people on the database. As part of the new development we will be replacing existing swipe cards and we’re working on the basis that we will require around 15,000 to account for active holders.”

Setting criteria for the new system, Cook says: “We wanted the same as PASS does at the moment, so that racecourses could manage the allocation of badges, particularly for owners, but we also wanted it to do more in terms of providing customer relations management benefits.

“The information we get at the moment is very limited, so we wanted to acquire more efficient monitoring of badge use, particularly metal badges, and also to allow racecourses to be able to understand their customers and communicate with them better.”

Having spoken to several companies, the RCA decided against an off-the-shelf product and opted for a bespoke system. Sports Fusion, a London-based company that has worked with a number of other sports and within racing through the BHA, was brought on board, and its Director Chris Thomas, has led the development team, with Jon Davis of Kickstart Technologies as Project Manager. Davis’ company specialises in the hospitality industry, as well as stadium access and ticketing system integration.

Cook takes up the story: “Sports Fusion completely understood the nature of our industry and wanted to work with us to get the right solution. They developed a prototype of the system, from which we could get the racecourses’ buy-in. We’ve got 50 racecourses signed up, and the others can come on stream later, if they want.”

The new PASS system has three components – an administrative back-of-house section; a racecourse back-of-house section, where racecourses can pre-set badge allocations that automatically feed through to the operator’s screen on the day, and a concierge facility for which PASS cardholders will be issued a log-in.

Cook explains: “Concierge is the new part, where racehorse owners’ with a horse declared at the 48- and 24-hour stages can see how many guest badges they are entitled to, which can be allocated to guests in advance and sent via a text message or PDF. It means guests will be able to access the racecourse on their own, instead of having to arrive at the same time as the owner or make special arrangements to collect a badge, as happens at the moment.

“Owners will have more control over the admission experience, because they can communicate directly with the racecourse with any queries they may have, while racecourses will also be able to send personalised messages through the concierge.

“The racecourses can use this opportunity to look at providing a better welcome experience for owners and trainers, and we will encourage consistency among racecourses about applying the system, which will be a benefit for everyone.”

Other advantages for racecourses include limiting the possibility of abuse through having live information, a clearer audit trail, the ability to report abuse, and a link to individual electronic access systems so that PASS cardholders can enter through any gate rather than the single entrance used at the moment.

Implementation of the new system is being phased. Jump courses will come on stream in the autumn and dual-purpose courses in November, when they finish their Flat seasons, and although Flat-only courses will be linked up from 1 January, in effect they will start the operation from the resumption of racing in 2017.

Two and a half years’ thought and planning has gone into revamping PASS, but there is more to come.

Cook explains: “One of the beauties of the new system is that it’s future-proofed. While we’ve been working on Phase One, points have already come up for discussion that we will put into Phase Two. This is just the beginning, not the end.”

Register for the new PASS System by visiting this link: