British horseracing faces severe threat after delay to the public’s return to sporting events
The delay to the public’s return to sporting events is a serious blow to the horseracing industry and to the people and communities who depend upon it for their living. Our sport has worked hard with public health officials to return safely and carry out pilot events. The exemplary response from the spectators in following the measures we put in place has shown that organised events can be run safely. We look forward to a full evaluation of the pilots and for the evidence to be used to inform future decisions about sporting events.
Despite all those efforts, our industry is now facing a severe threat. We are the second most attended spectator sport in the country. Without the millions of people who normally enjoy a day at the races, many people’s jobs are at serious risk, as are the businesses they work in. We know this is recognised from the regular discussions we have had with ministers and we thank them for their strong support in these difficult times.
We have kept the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments updated on the financial impact of COVID and the effects on the rural economies in which so many of our racing staff live and work. We have told the UK government our racecourses were facing a loss of £250 to £300 million of revenues this year, which in turn means less prize money flowing through to our participants and our owners.
We will be conducting a further economic impact assessment and will work with government to put in place financial assistance to protect livelihoods and rural communities. We were pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that the Chancellor and the Culture Secretary are working urgently to do what they can to support our sector. The Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Nick Rust, will attend a meeting with the Culture Secretary this afternoon.
We have worked closely with the betting industry during our safe return from lockdown. Responsible betting is part of the fun of racing. It benefits both industries, flowing back into racing to create jobs and fund the care of horses. But British racing does not benefit to the extent of our European counterparts for structural reasons. We have seen growing signs that our best horses are being lured elsewhere by the promise of greater financial rewards. We believe the case for urgent reform has been made. This will be part of the assessment we share with government.
The Chief Executive of the BHA, Nick Rust, said today:
“Racing’s leaders are responding to this crisis by working together like never before. We are working to a recovery plan, but today’s announcement will set back our progress. We will urge the government to provide financial support, as they have indicated they are considering, and to accept the case for urgent reform of the Levy.
“Our loyal owners and our key international investors have stood by us and we ask government to work with us to maintain that confidence in racing and in Britain.”