Axe falls on fixtures in response to falling levy

The BHA is ready to axe around 250 meetings from the fixture list for 2011 as a response to rapidly falling income received by the Levy Board from betting-industry gross profits.

Confirming the grim prospect, BHA director of racing Ruth Quinn said on Wednesday: "Given the income and expenditure levels we are expecting from the Levy Board next year, a fixture list of 1,503, like this year's, cannot be justified."

As a consequence, all BHA-owned fixtures, which total in the region of 250, will be removed from the current allocation process for2011, and the bidding process in place for the last five years will be scrapped.

The only exceptions to the cuts will be 16 BHA-owned fixture slots granted to Ffos Las as a new racecourse.

If the 2011 fixture process emerged with a programme of approximately 1,240 meetings, the total would be the smallest since 2002, involving only the second year-on-year decline in the last 15 years.

Last week, when the Levy Board announced cuts of £2.1 million to its prize-money contributions from August 2 to the end of the year, its calendar-year income for 2010 was forecast to be £72.6m.

On Wednesday, Quinn revealed that the board's executive was estimating 2011 income at £68.9m.

She said: "On that basis, the prize-money pot is likely to be in the region of £37m [from £52.1m this year], after taking off overheads, payments for integrity and regulation, and, say, £2.5m for the fixture incentive scheme.

"To spread that amount over 1,500 fixtures would be untenable. It would have a catastrophic effect on the sport.

"So, if nothing changes before the next Levy Board meeting in a fortnight's time, the BHA fixtures will go and there would be no bidding process during the current allocation process."

More work, involving the BHA, Levy Board, Racecourse Association, Horsemen's Group and individual racecourses, would be undertaken to avoid or lessen the number of gaps, Quinn said.

"The majority of the fixtures are in customer-unfriendly slots," she conceded, "and taking them out would leave five consecutive days in January with no jump racing, for example.

"We need to keep a structure to the fixture list, and would look to provide one that offers racing on every day of the year, except for those specific days that we have agreed will be blank."

Quinn added: "There are a lot of questions still to beanswered, but they can only be dealt with when we know how much Levy Board money is available."

The situation has inevitably delayed the 2011 fixture list process, which normally would have been completed and published in the second-last week of this month. Next year's programme maynot be out until the end of August, and even then could contain only the key, confirmed fixtures.

The BHA has agreed with the RCA, Horsemen's Group and Levy Board executive that prize-money cuts for the rest of 2010 from August 2 will be made across the board. Basic daily rate and extra race fund payments to racecourses are going down by nine per cent and minimum values will fall by an average of seven per cent.

Pattern and Listed races will take a proportionately smaller cut, after injections from the BHA's enhancement fund. At the other end of the scale, the lowest total prize funds will amount to £2,250 on the Flat, for Class 6 races, and £1,150 over jumps, for bumpers and hunter chases.

Quinn said: "It's too late in the year to do anything more sophisticated. We had to keep it simple, although there is some protection for races at the top end, but we will look to next year for a more detailed review."