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Why the 2017 Grand National will be the UK's biggest sporting event of the year

Here in the United Kingdom, there are only a handful of sporting events which truly bring the entire country together. Top flight football have their date with destiny thanks to the FA Cup Final, rugby league fans have their Challenge Cup, and any time the country competes in the Olympic Games is cause for everyone to gather round the television and bask in a certain sense of national pride.

Here in the world of horse racing, we of course have our own event of this statue, a unique occasion which some would argue is even more a national even than even the FA Cup Final. The best part? It's back for another year.

Yes, dear readers, Grand National is here! Bet now with William Hill, get yourself in front of the sofa, and strap in for the one time of year that the entire United Kingdom comes together to watch the 4+ miles of action and excitement that is the world's most famous steeplechase.

The 2017 Grand National - Bigger Than Ever Before

Of course, you don't need me to tell you about the history of the Grand National, nor about how it's the one time year that ardent punters are joined by millions across the country in betting on the outcome of the race, with many of those millions making their Grand National bet the only time of year that they flutter on any kind of sporting event.

What you may not realise -at least not right from the off- is that the 2017 event may just be the biggest Grand National of them all so far.

A Historic Move Away from the BBC

Part of the reason that this year's race may dwarf all others in the event's long and illustrious history is that, for the first time ever, the Grand National will be broadcast on ITV.

From the 1960s up to 2012, the event was a BBC exclusive before Channel 4, well-known for their horse racing coverage, took over between 2013 - 2016. This year however, its turn of ITV, who won the broadcasting rights by paying in excess of 30 million for them.

For the Grand National jockeys who many punters will be betting on, and for the British horse racing industry as a whole, this move to ITV is significant.

Yes, Channel 4 were the one terrestrial broadcaster most synonymous with the sport, but even they don't boast the kind of mainstream viewing figures that ITV do, a fact which can't have escaped industry insiders when they gave the broadcasting contract to the company.

A Later Start Time

Another significant change in recent years has been the Grand National start time.

Typically, the event always kicked off at 4.15pm, but since the 2016 event, has started an hour later, at 5.15pm, a move which was designed to attract higher viewing figures.

The move worked too. In 2015, 8.9 million people saw the Channel 4 broadcast, with an estimated 600 million people watching world wide.

In 2016, the later start time drew over 10 million viewers, the biggest audience in four years, with millions more enjoying the event from across the globe.

Popularity to Rival the FA Cup

By comparison, some nine million people tuned in to watch the live FA Cup final here in the UK. Whilst global viewing figures, coupled with radio coverage, mean that somewhere in excess of 30 million people globally mean that the final gave the Grand National some serious competition, that was before the move to ITV.

What's more, with over 250 million generated in Grand National betting each year, the amount generated by the event does dwarf any other sporting event in the UK, meaning the annual steeplechase is undoubtedly the one event which brings the entire United Kingdom together like nothing else in the country.

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