UK Racing pushes for drastic levy reforms as deep recession looms

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that it has agreed the ‘next phase of recovery’ for UK racing, working with The Horsemen’s Group and Racecourse Association (RCA).

Since racing’s resumption on 1 July, the three bodies have collaborated on a wide range of recovery directives, seeking to restore racing activities and revenues for all stakeholders. 

Publishing its joint plans, the BHA stated that it has placed added focus on retaining owners and key investors of the sport, whilst seeking to attract customers when the racecourses become open to the general public. 

BHA CEO Nick Rust stated: ‘It’s very important that this plan has been agreed by leaders from all parts of the racing industry. We know from the way we prepared to resume racing in June that working together works. 

“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.”

UK racing’s joint recovery plan is led by the three core objectives:

  1. Establishing a fixtures programme which can best accommodate racing owner costs, whilst maintaining its appeal to the general public.
  2. To maintain the industry’s cost-base as low as possible, retaining owners and the sport’s investor appeal, whilst leadership pushes for an immediate levy reform.
  3. To secure sustainable future foundations for the long-term growth of UK racing and its stakeholders weathering a deep recession.

In its statement, the BHA underlined that the realities of COVID-19 and its imminent recession have been made further acute following racing’s restart on 1 June, in which racecourses rely on racegoers for 50% or more of their income.

Leadership of UK racing has formed an agreement that it will pursue immediate Levy reforms, seeking a greater return from bets placed on international racing – a requirement needed to ‘level the playing field with other European racing nations after Brexit’.

David Armstrong, CEO of the RCA, stated: “The whole industry worked very well to enable Racing to return as the first major sport behind closed doors.  Now we have to renew that collaboration as we enter this Recovery Phase and move beyond that into 2021.  

“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.”

Further to its funding directives, UK racing’s recovery plan has established 9 collaborative ‘industry goals’, which include forming a centralised spending plan to allocate funds and resources that best supports racing’s recovery.

The BHA further states that it will reform rules on racing syndicates and clubs in order to increase investment options and maximise the sport’s appeal for new owners.

For 2021 UK racing leadership has agreed on a new fixtures programme that seeks to maximise prize money balanced against the financial constraints of stakeholders and the sport’s projected revenues, through new commercial agreements between RCA and Horsemen’s Group.

Representing the Horsemen’s Group, CEO Charlie Liverton said “This new recovery plan goes further towards protecting the long term future of our sport and formalising collaboration between the stakeholders during this difficult period.

 It is imperative that we focus on the vital drivers that keep our sport going and growing: retaining owners and maximising the sport’s revenues. There is a lot to be done but I am confident that, working together, we can deliver this vital work for participants across the industry.”

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