Industry leaders agree recovery plan for British horseracing

2019 Cheltenham Festival – Champion Day – Cheltenham Racecourse

Racing industry leaders from the British Horseracing Authority, horsemen and racecourses have agreed on the next phase of their response to the COVID crisis. The new plan puts an added focus on retaining owners and key investors, and attracting customers when the public starts to return to racecourses.

The main aim is to restore revenues wherever possible and work for the full resumption of racing, with the best possible ownership and spectator experience, and the maximum attendance possible.

Leaders have committed to put in place a fixture programme for 2021 that seeks to maximise prize money within the severe financial constraints faced by participants, supported by new commercial agreements between Racecourses and Horsemen to be agreed. Funding from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) is currently supporting prize money after racecourse finances were severely impacted by the halt to racing and the continued absence of crowds.

The plans makes clear that weathering the recession will require the industry’s cost-base to be kept as low as possible, whilst targeted action and support should be directed at retaining owners and key investors.

The return of spectators to the racecourse in significant numbers is a key priority within the recovery plan and is vital to restore the the economic prosperity of the sport for 2021 and beyond. Racecourses rely on racegoers for half of their income, or more.

This plan will come as a relief to those areas which host major race festivals.  It is estimated that Cheltenham Festival is worth more than £100 million to Gloucestershire’s economy. At Ascot Racecourse, it’s higher, according to a report by Deloitte, which details total direct expenditure generated by the racecourse at £138 million in 2013.

There does not seem to be an equivalent study for Newbury Racecourse, but total turnover there in 2018 was £19.29 million.

A study of the economic impact of the horse racing industry in and around the village of Lambourn near Swindon published last year revealed that it is worth over £22.6 million to the economy per annum and that racing is responsible for one in three jobs in the area.

There is agreement that racing should be making a case for immediate Levy reform, seeking a level playing-field with other European racing nations after Brexit, through a fair return from bets placed on international racing. Sustainable prosperity is a longer-term goal but most resources will be focused on the shorter-term financial health of the industry.

Chief Executive of the BHA, Nick Rust said: “The commitment shown by leaders in signing up to this recovery plan demonstrates a continued willingness to maintain a unified approach through the tough battles ahead”.

Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association David Armstrong said:“This plan brings together all the necessary components in one clear action plan with some ambitious goals.  From a racecourse perspective the return of racegoers and the experience for owners are clear priorities that are already underway and we look forward to the wider recovery of the sport”