Update on racing’s response
Industry leaders are examining the announcement from the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, that the government is planning to support salaries as part of the response to COVID-19. The Chancellor, who is also the MP for Middleham, made the announcement on Friday afternoon. The package of support will reduce some of the impact of the economic shock caused by the government’s decisions earlier this week.
The details that have been given so far will be analysed by senior executives, using the most recent information on the commercial revenues and employment generated by the racing industry. A wide-ranging submission to government outlining the impact of the shutdown on racing and proposing areas for potential help is being adapted to respond to the Chancellor’s announcement.
At a meeting this morning, executives were finalising the submission. The Chief Executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, Paul Struthers, outlined the potential impact on self-employed jockeys and other roles in racing outside salaried employment, and outlined specific measures being developed in consultation with the Injured Jockeys Fund. Industry leaders are assessing the overall economic impact of the shutdown to present the most comprehensive case possible to government.
The meeting heard from Charlie Liverton, the Chief Executive of the Racehorse Owners Association, on the pressures facing owners. He described how many are maintaining their horses in training until there is greater clarity about the length of the suspension and there was a desire for racing to return as soon as the situation allows. For the National Trainers’ Federation, Chief Executive, Rupert Arnold, highlighted the challenges already facing trainers and their staff. The meeting also considered the impact on breeders and the need to maintain horse movements as an essential part of continuing business.
The Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association, David Armstrong, is working with an experienced team of economic consultants to pull together all the current data on the racing industry and incorporate it in the submission. David Armstrong said:
“Racing had already been doing some in-depth work to help us develop our commercial strategy and respond to changing consumer habits and changes in the betting sector. We have rapidly adapted the work to help inform our case to government. The figures we are able to use are therefore right up-to-date and have helped us to produce a highly professional submission. We can show clearly that we have a good understanding of our industry and the pressures it now faces’.
“We have only just heard the Chancellor’s statement and it will take a day or two to understand how businesses and those who work in racing will be affected. We will provide a further update on Monday”.
Separately, the industry’s COVID-19 group met to progress the programme of work designed to respond to the suspension of racing. A plan is being finalised but will need to await the detail from the government measures announced today. Dawn Goodfellow, from Racing Welfare, briefed the group on the measures it was taking to address immediate hardship. The meeting also discussed the stream of work designed to prepare racing for a resumption at the earliest opportunity.
Communicating during the COVID shutdown
The industry group is keen to ensure that everyone involved in racing knows where they can get guidance, information and support over the coming days and weeks, and to explain how communications will be handled.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Nick Rust, BHA CEO, explained:
“We’re managing this as an industry and racing is pulling together as a team in a magnificent way. There has already been a massive industry effort.
“People might be feeling that they’re not hearing direct from the BHA but the industry group has agreed that the most effective approach is to communicate via the sport’s specialist membership and trade bodies.
“This ensures that people receive information and advice that is tailored to their specific needs. It also helps the constituent parts of the industry to get a clearer and more complete overview of how the situation is affecting people, and the issues that need to be addressed most urgently. This will be particularly important as we continue to develop our approach to government for support.
“The BHA is hugely appreciative of the efforts of these organisations, many of which operate with small teams, in supporting our people and for their invaluable contributions over the past few days.”
The industry group is therefore encouraging people to check the websites of their representative bodies, which are being updated regularly with the latest information, or to make contact with those organisations direct.
Some organisations will also be assuming responsibility for communicating with people who are not part of their core membership and who lack other representation. For example, the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) has already started communicating directly with jockeys’ agents and valets and has agreed to continue to do so.
Anyone who is unsure who they should speak to, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racing is also extremely fortunate in having its own charity, Racing Welfare, whose team is on hand to provide advice and guidance to anyone in the industry who may be experiencing difficulties and challenges, whether physical, emotional or financial, at this difficult time. Contact details can be found here.