05 Aug 2011 Pre-2014 Releases

The British Horseracing Authority today announced a cap of 1,400 to the number of fixtures that will be scheduled in 2012, after its Board approved plans to reduce the fixture list by at least 80 fixtures. It also confirmed that the 2012 fixture list will be published by no later than Friday 30th September 2011.

The 2012 fixture allocation process has been suspended since the beginning of June because of the uncertainty regarding the funding of fixtures next year, as a result of the decline in levy funding. This is due to be confirmed at the next Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) meeting on 14th September, after which the total number of fixtures will be finalised.

The decision by the BHA to remove at least 80 fixtures is due to concerns regarding the ability of the declining horse population to continue to service the existing fixture list. Recent analytical research undertaken by Weatherbys into the likely impact of sharply falling foal crops strongly suggests an increased rate of decline in horse numbers in 2012 and, with nearly 40% of races currently attracting seven or fewer runners, the fixture reduction has been approved with a view to protecting the competitiveness of British Racing.

The research involved analysing historical data, identifying relationships between foal and horses-in-training numbers, and applying those relationships to recent declining foal crops with a view to projecting future trends in horses-in-training numbers.

Although there is a range of possible outcomes, the BHA has taken the view that the rate of decline in horse numbers could increase from 3.2% in 2011 to around 7% in 2012.

On this basis, it has been possible to model the changes that would need to be made to the 2012 fixture list with the aim of maintaining existing average field sizes of around 9 runners per race. The model, which takes into account the current number of runners, eliminations and average runs per horse, projects that a reduction of at least 80 fixtures would prevent further deterioration in levels of competitiveness.

The sport’s major events in the 2012 calendar will not be affected by the ongoing discussions, and are published today.

Ruth Quinn, Director of Racing for the British Horseracing Authority, said:

“Although the size and shape of the fixture list cannot be finalised until the impact of the significantly reduced levy has been confirmed, we have taken this action to try to ensure that falling horse numbers will not erode the attractiveness of British Racing, both as a sporting spectacle and as a betting medium.

“The process will involve removing a majority of the leasehold fixtures that had been agreed on a one-year only basis for 2011 between racecourses and horsemen, and we will continue to consult with stakeholders to ensure that the fixture slots that are removed will be those that are of the least value to Racing.

“Horse numbers have been in steady decline since peaking in 2008 and, with the significantly reduced foal crops due to reach racing age, the sport cannot continue at its previous capacity. Although we are in the middle of a remarkable Flat season, the Board felt compelled to take this decision to protect the long term health of the sport.”

All 60 British racecourses have been made aware of the changes, and the process of consultation regarding the removal of fixture slots is ongoing.