07 Apr 2008 Pre-2014 Releases

The British Horseracing Authority has released the findings of its Strategic Review of the Fixture List. The report is the culmination of a comprehensive process, first commissioned in May 2007, when the new Board made a commitment to undertake a root-and-branch review of the fixture list, the goal being to balance the many factors and to identify the optimal fixture list for British Horseracing.

This review was undertaken against the backdrop of a fixture list that had been transformed in recent years. Whilst there is currently a record number of races, owners and horses in training, concern had been expressed by many of the sport’s participants that it has become over-extended. Questions were raised as to the impact the policy of fixture expansion had on British Horseracing’s appeal, its dedicated workforce, its overall quality and financial returns.

The review sought to establish the facts and analyse the relevant data. This has included details of race by race licensed betting office turnover provided by Totesport and Coral. All organisations and individuals with an interest in racing were invited and encouraged to contribute to the review. This included racecourses, trainers, jockeys, owners, breeders, sponsors, broadcasters, journalists and the public.

This data has facilitated detailed analysis, undertaken with the support of the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, that has never previously been possible.

The review’s conclusions seek to produce a framework for the fixture list that will best support the long term interests of the sport by improving standards and the quality of British Horseracing at all levels, thereby increasing its appeal to a wider audience.

The key recommendations and findings of the review are:

• British Horseracing has to concentrate first on foremost on the sporting spectacle. If this is right, interest in British Horseracing will grow and therefore so will interest in racing as a betting product.
• The Authority should reverse fixture list expansion and act to do so through BHA owned own fixtures, with winter evenings to be reduced and fixture free Sundays to be introduced.
• Saturday racing should be the focus for British Horseracing. ‘Premier Fixtures’ should be packaged and promoted more effectively, with a real need for racecourses to act together to achieve this.
• Differentiating between racing’s fixtures is vitally important. Key fixtures should be branded, and approval has been granted by the Racing Promotion Group for this to commence immediately.
• The balance between prize money levels and opportunities to run needs to be addressed.
• The Authority should develop a suitable mechanism, in consultation with the Horsemen’s Group, that will prevent horses rated 40 or below from being eligible to run in Flat races from the beginning of the 2009 Flat season.
• Where considered necessary, the Authority restrict bidding for BHA fixtures to racecourses in selected regions and the Authority should review the fixture list at the end of the fixture allocation process and co-ordinate attempts to resolve geographical imbalances.

Paul Roy, Chairman of the British Horseracing Authority, said:

“The majority of submissions we received agreed that British Horseracing’s greatest attribute is its quality and the compelling sporting spectacle it provides regularly at a diverse range of racecourses across the country. At the top end of the scale, we have the very best Jump racing there is, and on the Flat our racecourses consistently stage the majority of the world’s top races.

“We have now established the facts and arrived at these informed recommendations with the aim of serving the long-term interests of British Horseracing. Our job now is to focus our attention on working with racecourses and other parties to secure their implementation over the coming months.

“All sports and leisure activities are facing many challenges and opportunities as markets change and evolve. But by preparing for action now, in full possession of the relevant facts, we will be able to preserve and enhance the leading position that British Horseracing enjoys, and strengthen our foundations for future growth.”

Morag Gray, Independent Director of the British Horseracing Authority and former Chief Executive of Hamilton Park Racecourse, said:

“The Fixture List Review has been a painstaking process based on data, consultation and extensive debate. The Racing Department have been thorough and receptive and should be commended for this piece of work. There was an overwhelming message that we have reached a turning point in terms of quality versus quantity and the many downsides that this is having on our sport.”

A full copy of the Strategic Review of the Fixture List can be downloaded from here.

Notes for Editors

A brief summary of the Strategic Review of the Fixture List is below.


Financial Analysis
• An average fixture generates a raceday profit of £80,000 (this includes the contribution to the levy yield and profit for the racecourse).
• The top 10% of fixtures contributed 43% of total profit, illustrating the importance of the sport’s key events.
• Only 58 fixtures made an overall net raceday loss.

Saturday Racing
• Saturday afternoon are the sport’s shop window.
• 70% of terrestrially televised races are on a Saturday.
• Approximately one in three people who attended racing in 2006 did so on a Saturday.
• On average, the total levy generated on a Saturday afternoon exceeds every other afternoon of the week by at least 50%.
• Of the £18 million contributed by sponsors to prize money during 2006, £7.9 million (44%) was for races staged on Saturday.
• If the ten weakest Saturdays were brought up to the level of “strong” Saturdays then, in theory, an additional £2.5 million of profit before prize money could be generated.

Sunday Racing
• The performance of fixtures staged on Sunday varies significantly from racecourse to racecourse although, in general terms, it is the worst performing day.
• The average raceday profit per fixture is lower on Sundays than for any other day of the week.
• The average betting turnover per race is lower on Sundays than for any other day of the week.
• Average prize money levels at Sunday fixtures are below the industry average.
• Despite the fact that, unlike any other day, approximately £1.2 million is paid in appearance money to support field sizes, the average number of runners in each race remains at its lowest on Sundays.

• Historically there has been little difference between the profitability of afternoon and evening fixtures, with higher evening admission revenues partly offset by higher afternoon levy returns.
• The importance of the summer season cannot be underestimated – May to August generates 45% of the sport’s revenue and profit for the whole year.

Winter Evenings

• Betting data indicates that from 1st September to 31st December 2007, betting turnover for the average race at an evening fixture was approximately 55% of the average race and at its lowest on Saturday evenings.
• Unlike their summer counterparts, winter evening fixtures have been unable to make up for the disappointing off-course performance by attracting significant crowds. For the period from September to February, the average attendance at winter evening fixtures was 935, falling to just 795 during the months of December, January and February.
• The average field size at evening fixtures from December 07 to February 08 has been just 8.6 runners, which can be compared with an average of 10.6 runners in all Flat races staged in 2007.

There are 25 recommendations within the review, 20 for consideration for the 2009 fixture list and 5 longer term recommendations. These recommendations are across 8 areas and are detailed in full in the review. The recommendations include:

• It is recommended that the concept of Premier fixtures should be developed with the aim of establishing a separate tier of fixtures comprising solely of British Horseracing’s landmark events in time for the 2009 fixture list. Premier fixtures, which should have minimum prize money levels and no races below a specified class, would be uniquely branded.
• Saturdays should ideally comprise two Premier fixtures, a valuable ‘newsworthy’ feature race, two reasonable supporting cards and a sensibly balanced geographical spread of fixtures. Where these objectives are not met on a particular Saturday, the Authority will work will the incumbent racecourses to strengthen performance.
• Beyond 2009 a mechanism should be established to open up persistently underperforming fixtures in prime slots to competition from other venues.

• Work with the relevant racecourses to address underperforming Sunday fixtures.
• With effect from the 2009 fixture list, it is recommended that fixtures are not staged on one Sunday in each of the months during the height of the winter, when fixture revenues are at their lowest.
• Further ahead, the sport would benefit from a mechanism that would encourage poorly performing fixtures to move from Sundays to alternative days of the week, thereby improving their off-course performance.

Winter Evenings
• In the light of the impact of the newly created winter evening fixtures on the existing AWT winter programme, the number of winter evening fixtures should be reduced from four to three each week during the period from December to March, when no such fixtures should be staged on Saturdays.

Horse Population
• Develop a suitable mechanism in consultation with the Horsemen’s Group that will prevent horses rated 40 or below from being eligible to run in Flat races from the beginning of the 2009 Flat season.
• Further increase the minimum rating level at an appropriate point in the future.

AWT fixtures during the main Flat season
• Work with Flat racecourses to provide a balanced distribution of AWT opportunities across the summer.
• The movement of an AWT fixture into the summer at the expense of a Turf fixture will in future require the Authority’s approval.

Geographical Considerations
• Where considered necessary, restrict bidding for BHA fixtures to racecourses in selected regions
• The Authority to review the fixture list at the end of the fixture allocation process and co-ordinate attempts to resolve geographical imbalances.
• Beyond 2009, the sport would benefit from the introduction of a geographical element into its funding mechanism for fixtures, particularly on racegoer friendly days.

Bank Holidays
• Where a particular region is identified as being in need of a fixture on Bank Holiday, racecourses in that locality should be invited to apply to stage an additional (partly funded) fixture.