Racing’s governing body today announced the sport has been forced to delay the publication of its 2011 fixture list due to uncertainty about the income it receives from the Horserace Betting Levy, which has suffered dramatic declines recently.
Representatives from across racing are united in their view that bookmakers and betting exchanges are ultimately responsible for the delay, as a result of the majority accessing loopholes to avoid providing fair funding to the sport via the Levy.
The fixture list is traditionally completed each year by mid July. The delay in the publication means jockeys, trainers, racecourses, stable staff, farriers and others directly involved in racing groups are unable to plan for 2011. In addition to the 20,000 full-time workers in the sport, the impact of today’s announcement will also be felt by the 80,000 people who work indirectly within racing, through industries including catering and hospitality.
The decision by the British Horesracing Authority to delay publication comes after a substantial drop in the 2010 Levy return and an uncertain 2011 position. Despite the betting industry posting bumper profits in recent years, the amount contributed to the Levy has gone into freefall. In 2009, the yield from the Horseracing Betting Levy shrank by more than 20 per cent, from £115.3 million to £91.6 million. It has been reported that the 2010 Levy has dropped even further to £76.5 million, a further fall of 17 per cent. This would mean the Levy has dropped by more than a third in the last two years alone as loopholes in the system are exploited, for example by bookmakers moving and basing their online businesses offshore.
Nic Coward, Chief Executive of the BHA, said:
“The BHA has been left with no choice but to delay the publication of the 2011 fixture list in the face of the current uncertainty about Levy income. This is massively frustrating, particularly as in many ways the sport’s hard work to prepare for and beat off the worst of the recession is going to plan. What we could not plan on was the extent to which betting operators were going to take the Levy down through exploiting loopholes. The Levy underpins the fixture list, tens of thousands of people depend on it for their livelihoods and this year we are facing a catastrophic cut in income from the Levy. It is not fair and not right that the people working in racing should suffer as a result of the majority of the betting industry looking to bypass the Levy in order to maximise their own profits. It would be irresponsible for us to plan for 2011 when setting fixtures now could ultimately result in racing being left out of pocket. Decision makers should be in no doubt about what is happening and take urgent action.”
Rupert Arnold, Chief Executive of the National Trainers Federation, said:
“This delay will make life increasingly difficult for trainers. Prize money, a yard’s key income, has already dropped significantly over the years, while at the same time the cost of fielding a runner has gone up. If this carries on large numbers of trainers will go out of business and stable staff will be laid off. Bookies need to wake up to the increasing damage that this lack of funding is causing to the grassroots of racing, and ensure they pay a more appropriate return to the Levy.”
Paul Fisher, Chief Operating Officer of Jockey Club Racecourses, which operates 14 leading racecourses in the UK and is scheduled to host a quarter of the British racing calendar in 2010, said:
“Racecourses are businesses like any other, and it is important for us to have certainty over fixtures and funding to plan our race days and events. We make a major contribution to local jobs, tourism and growth and that is important to communities in these difficult economic times. We have removed more than £7 million in costs across our business for two years in succession as a necessary response to difficult financial conditions. Anything that delivers a further blow is something racing can ill-afford.”