A NEW initiative to make racing more accessible for racegoers less comfortable in large crowds has been welcomed by the North East Autism Society.

Sunflower benches have been placed in quiet locations at the nine Go Racing In Yorkshire courses - Redcar, York, Thirsk, Ripon, Catterick, Beverley, Pontefract, Doncaster, and Wetherby.

The benches, painted by North-East mural artist Jess Arthur and funded by the Racing Foundation, are designed for racegoers who need some time out during a busy race day to reset before re-joining the action. 

They are positioned so racegoers can still see the horses but in an area that is less densely populated.

The initiative, which comes in World Autism Acceptance Month, has been welcomed by NEAS.

Our Family Development Manager, Kerrie Highcock, said: "It's great to see the racing industry taking simple but effective steps to make it easier for people with anxiety.

Autistic and neurodivergent people can often find noise and crowds challenging, so it's important to provide space for them to have a break while also still being able to enjoy the sport.

Go Racing In Yorkshire Chairman, Ben Warn, said: “People go racing for the atmosphere, but we recognise that there are some racegoers who are not as comfortable in the busy crowds. 

"The sunflower benches are there for them to take some time out, while still in the presence of the horses to relax before returning to the action.  We are very grateful to the Racing Foundation for their support of this initiative.

Racing is an inclusive sport and we want to make it as accessible as possible for everyone. Our racecourses have spent the winter months working on projects to improve accessibility and the sunflower benches are another element of this.

Tansy Challis from the Racing Foundation added: “The Racing Foundation supports projects that focus on community engagement, inclusion and accessibility. The Sunflower Benches provide a recognisable, safe space across Yorkshire racecourses for those who may experience anxiety in a crowded environment and who may otherwise not feel able to come racing.

"This project sits alongside other activities we are funding, such as the Autism in Racing programme being rolled out across racecourses and activities being delivered by the Diversity in Racing Steering Group.”

Click here for more information about the benches