Thursday 15 December 2016

The New PASS System Fails its Tests: British Racing Needs to Learn from these Fiascos

In the last blog I covered the launch of the new PASS system that was introduced at the beginning of November. Without repeating too much detail of that blog, the Privilege Access Swipe System (PASS) card was introduced over 20 years ago by racecourses to manage exclusive complimentary access for owners to courses. The new PASS cards, provided by the Racecourse Association (RCA), have been designed to “ensure quick and easy access to racecourses”; to “revolutionise your pre-arrival and entry experience”; giving you “the chance to personalise your raceday experience from start to finish”; and “this modern and mobile system allows better communication between you and racecourses, ensuring a personal touch to the raceday experience”.

For the new system to work properly, it needs to be suitable for all the different types of owner and unfortunately, from our experience in terms of partnerships, it most definitely isn’t, neither for those of us who have no problems whatsoever in using the internet nor equally for those of our owners who don’t or won’t. My wife, who does all the administration for Owners for Owners, has found it extremely frustrating and technically impossible to cover all the different requirements of our owners, and it most definitely hasn’t “revolutionised or personalised” our raceday experience. In fact it has done exactly the opposite. The frustration it has caused is so great that it has fundamentally challenged our commitment to running partnerships in the future, because the hassle of doing it is just becoming intolerable. In the future we may well switch to running syndicates instead, or owning horses outside Owners for Owners.

Before detailing some of the things wrong with the PASS system, I need to vent the frustration not just with the system but with the repeated inability of British Racing to apply any of the basic rules of change management. This is not just a personal opinion, as I have spoken at length with the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) on the subject and they have been inundated with vehement complaints; I gather they have logged over 200 problems with the system. As far as I know, the whole system was rushed into operation at the last minute; there was no proper testing or Beta site to find out what might have been wrong with the system before they launched it; there were no user groups to guide design and implementation; the ROA, which could have helped enormously, was kept on the sidelines; and once again British Racing has a fiasco on its hands. It is not just Owners for Owners who are rethinking ownership. We have already heard from a number of our owners that they are considering packing in ownership because of the endless hassles, constant frustrations and just the rank inability of the racing administrators to shape up and test systems properly before launching them. This is a shocking self-inflicted wound that could easily drive owners out of the sport. It is time the ineptitude was not tolerated. For those of us who have worked in major companies worldwide, if you are in charge of a significant process launch such as the PASS system and get it wrong, you lose your job.

Right, I now feel a bit better for that rant. Here are some of the things wrong with the system:

  • Some owners have not even heard anything about it, and others have not received a new card.
  • For those who have received cards, not all of them have worked.
  • Registration procedures have been followed but the cards have not been activated.
  • Changes to passwords have been requested but there has been no response from the site.
  • There is enormous confusion about what the PASS system is designed to do.
  • There is equal confusion about the differences between the RCA and ROA, and the role of the PASS system in complimentary badge entitlement for those who own more than 50% of a horse.
  • The length of time to brief owners on the changes and the detail of operation have been inadequate.
  • British Racing refuses to acknowledge the implication of the age of most owners. Many of them cannot or will not interact with racing through the internet. The designers of the PASS system have not built this into the process with sufficient sensitivity (or at all).
  • The system may work well for sole owners and even syndicates where there are nominated owners who control matters, but it will not work for a partnership of owners, some of whom wish to attend with a guest and others who cannot attend – it does not allow the pooling of the badge allocation.
I am personally lobbying the RCA for immediate changes, and my wife is doing the same with the ROA. The core problem here is the lack of detailed information as to how ownership actually works. The designers of processes tend to be young, technically competent, based in London with great broadband access, and don’t own horses. The owners tend to be older, technically cautious, based in the country with often poor broadband, and own horses despite the frustrations of it. Without really careful and sympathetic design of any process changes, it is inevitable that there will be continued fiascos such as this one. Alas, I am going to have to return to this subject again on the next blog, as I’ve run out of space on this one! Yours, in frustration!

I am always interested to hear your views so please do leave a comment. If you can't see the comment box at the bottom of this post then navigate to the post using the right hand navigation or click here > and scroll to the bottom of the page. Look forward to hearing your views. Thanks very much for sharing them.


  1. With you Jon totally. Since we spoke earlier this week, have checked my card and unable to log in. Answer phone on helpline and no one has called back in over 24 hours. Kay

  2. The "user interface" of these systems as you rightly say tend to be older and technically cautious but also what exacerbates the situation is they have staff at the racecourses that are also older and technically cautious part time workers using systems perhaps no more the 20 times a year on some racecourses. They do their best to use a credit card terminal often relying on poor broadband connections at the racecourse (isn't it about time they sorted that problem out as well)when a long line is forming to buy entrance badges using a credit/debit dare they not use cash!