The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) – with unanimous support from the members of British racing’s Executive Committee, which comprises of the sport’s tripartite structure of BHA, Racecourse Association (RCA) and Horsemen’s Group – has today confirmed the policies which it has been agreed will be applied during the formation of the 2019 Fixture List.
The Executive Committee has agreed that in 2019 a focus should be placed on introducing steps to support the sport’s workforce, while simultaneously continuing to align the scheduling and timing of fixtures to the needs of the betting industry and maximising the overall commercial returns to the sport.
The commitment to supporting jockeys and racing staff – which is supported by all parties within the sport – has resulted in an agreement to implement a number of measures in 2019, including:
- All floodlit fixtures (which run from January to mid-April, and from September to December) are to finish earlier, with the final race starting no later than 20:30.
- A six-day break will be introduced for Flat racing participants at the end of the Turf season in November. In addition there will be an intended five-day break in March towards the end of the All-Weather season (although additional late notice fixtures may be programmed during this period in exceptional circumstances if all Jump fixtures on a day look likely to be abandoned).
- No fixtures will be programmed on Sunday 22 December 2019, providing an extra racing-free day before Christmas.
The existing eight-day summer break and five-day end-of-season breaks for Jump fixtures will also be maintained.
Following constructive discussions with stakeholder groups and betting companies – including both retail and digital operators – further policies that will be applied to the 2019 Fixture List are:
- To schedule floodlit cards with the aim of providing greater continuity of product from the start of afternoon racing through until the final race of the day on a consistent basis, with the final race always staged between 20:00 and 20:30.
- The addition of 15 floodlit fixtures in autumn, to be run alongside existing floodlit cards on Wednesdays and Thursdays, as part of a one year trial to test their popularity with the betting industry’s customers. These fixtures will be programmed in September and October when there is currently a relatively high level of race eliminations and so any impact on field sizes is expected to be negligible.
Although the double floodlit trial will involve creating 15 fixtures, the total increase in the fixture list will be limited to around five or six fixtures as a result of removing fixtures elsewhere in the fixture list.
In addition, from within the existing prize money budget – and subject to formal approval from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) – racing’s tripartite bodies have agreed to support extending the recently introduced Appearance Money Scheme. Currently the scheme pays an extra £100 to horses finishing in the first eight on Friday and Saturday floodlit and summer evening fixtures, guaranteeing connections £400. This extra payment will now be extended to cover all floodlit fixtures (January to mid-April, and September to December).
Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer for the BHA, said:
“We are aware of the demands that the Fixture List places on our participants. Repeatedly returning home late from race meetings being followed by early starts the following day is not good for the health and wellbeing of our trainers, staff and jockeys, and ultimately impacts retention rates.
“At the same time, as the world changes and betting behaviours alter – in particular the ongoing and ever increasing switch to digital betting platforms – it is essential that the sport adapts to meet this demand and schedules its fixtures and races accordingly. We must maximise revenues to the sport and its people by engaging with betting audiences at times when we know they want to bet and have few other sporting options to do so.
“It is about striking the right balance and ensuring that the sport generates revenue while not asking too much of our workforce. It is for this reason that the agreed policies will be put in place next year.”
Under the terms of the sport’s Members’ Agreement it was agreed that all items related to Fixture Policy must be agreed via at least a 2:1 vote by the three member bodies of BHA, Racecourse Association (RCA) and Horsemen’s Group. However, the 2019 Fixture List Policy proposals were agreed unanimously by the three members.
The process of compiling the Fixture List itself will now take place, with a view to publishing the 2019 Fixture List in July.
Richard Wayman added:
“Racing’s tripartite structure has taken these decisions for 2019 despite the uncertainty regarding the potential impact of the Government’s Gambling Review on the sport’s future finances.
“Although plans are being developed for how racing would respond to a reduction in its future revenue streams, we would obviously want to digest the implications of any such changes – which would not be felt immediately – before making fundamental changes to our fixture policy. The current expectation is that any changes in betting regulation will not be in force until mid-2019.
“It is important that all those that make their living from the sport can plan for the immediate future with confidence and the fixture policy for 2019 has been agreed in the expectation that Levy receipts for 2017/18 will be at or above forecast and also that Levy Board reserves should be increased to at least £40m by the end of the year.”
Notes to Editors
- Floodlit fixtures will be scheduled with the aim of providing greater continuity from the start of afternoon racing through until the final race of the day. This will involve staging up to a maximum of eight races on floodlit cards with the aim of minimising the gap to no more than 20 minutes between the end of the afternoon fixtures and the beginning of the floodlit fixture. This goal will be achieved throughout the floodlit racing period other than from mid-November to mid-January when the early sunset time will mean that there is a slightly longer gap.
The final race of the day will be staged between 20:00 and 20:30, Monday to Saturday, from January to mid-April, and September to December. During the period of non-floodlit evening fixtures (mid-April to August), final race times will remain unchanged.
All-weather meetings staged in the afternoon during the first quarter of the year will be limited to six races (before divisions) to support field sizes.