THERE will be 20 fewer racemeetings in Britain next year. The British Horseracing Authority says the decision to cull fixtures was made after considering a number of factors, such as pressure on prize money, field sizes and on the health and wellbeing of the sport's participants.
The British racing industry’s Fixtures and Funding Group, which is led and organised by the BHA, but includes full representation from racecourses and horsemen, worked throughout the first half of the year on its annual review of the Fixture List to identify any improvements which can be made to meet the sport’s aims.
Agreement has been reached to introduce for 2020 a number of new measures which take into consideration the competitiveness of the racing product, the wellbeing of the sport’s participants and the commercial imperative to respond to the needs of the betting public. These measures will be incorporated into the Fixture List for 2020 which is due to be published in August.
The measures include:
• No races to start later than 9pm at evening fixtures in the summer. (The finish time for floodlit fixtures was moved to 8.30pm for 2019).
• The Christmas break will be extended by one day. December 22nd becomes a non-racing day.
• The jump racing break in August will extend from nine days to 12
• Afternoon racing to be underway by 2pm at the latest to meet the needs of the betting public.
• Floodlit cards limited to seven programmed races so that races may divide to better adapt to demand within the horse population. Racecourses staging BHA fixtures to always opt in to dividing races at these meetings.
Work is also continuing to create an appropriate initiative based around International Women’s Day 2020 on Sunday, March 8th.
VOLUME OF FIXTURES
There was significant debate amongst the sport’s tripartite parties as to the appropriate overall volume of fixtures to be included in the 2020 Fixture List. The tripartite leaders were unable to reach consensus on the number of BHA fixtures to be staged in 2020, and as a result the process required the BHA Board to reach a final decision, which it did at its meeting on Wednesday.
The BHA Board heard the considerations from the work of the Fixtures and Funding Group, and received individual submissions from the Racecourse Association (RCA) and the Horsemen’s Group (HG).
The decision taken by the Board included the following considerations:
• The fact that media rights income and Levy is expected to fall in late 2019 and throughout 2020 as betting shop closures are expected to accelerate. Maintaining (or even growing) fixture numbers in 2020 could help support racecourse income and potentially prize money
• The requirement for the sport to stage a competitive and compelling racing product. This included consideration of the fact that the number of races attracting a minimum of eight runners has fallen from 71% in 2010 to 62% in 2018
• With a number of racecourses indicating that prize money levels will decline compared to 2018, consequent knock-on impacts on ownership levels and the numbers of horses in training places further pressure on field sizes
• Recent evidence (including pressures identified by participants in the Racing Welfare-commissioned mental health report) suggesting that the health and wellbeing of participants is being affected by the extent of the Fixture List at particular times of the year
All parties agreed to commission a new independent economic analysis to support decision-making on fixtures in future years, and to help ensure the strategic direction for the sport can be based upon an agreed set of facts. This work will be conducted via the industry’s Executive Committee over the next four months, and will be led by the Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association, David Armstrong.
After careful consideration, weighing the evidence available to it, the BHA Board’s independent members agreed to remove a limited number of 20 BHA-allocated fixtures from the fixture list. As a result, 1,491 fixtures will be programmed in 2020 compared to the 1,511 in 2019.
To decide which fixtures are removed from the fixture list, the Fixtures and Funding Group will consider how best to limit impacts on overall revenue, ensure the greatest benefit for the competitiveness of the racing product and ensure the greatest beneficial impact on the wellbeing of industry participants.
Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer for the BHA, said: “We are grateful for the efforts of all those involved in continuing to develop the Fixture List so that it best serves the longer-term interests of the sport and it is pleasing that a number of new initiatives have been agreed for next year.
“Discussions around fixture volume are often challenging, particularly so when prize money levels are under pressure. In reaching its decision, the Board sought to balance income considerations with the longer-term outlook for the sport, its customers and all those employed in racing.
“It is particularly significant that all parties are committed to supporting the detailed economic modelling that will take place in order that decisions can be made in future years based on more detailed and independent data. This is a very positive development that has the potential to support more significant changes to the structure of the fixture list in the future. Our aim is to benefit all the parties directly involved and also help to ensure a growing and vibrant sport that meets the changing demands of its various customers.”
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