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UK racing leaders welcome £40 million package of government loans for horseracing

The leaders of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Racecourse Association (RCA) and The Horsemen’s Group (HG) have welcomed the government’s decision to provide up to £40 million of loans for horseracing. The sum was announced on Thursday as part of a plan to provide financial assistance to major spectator sports, the Sport Winter Survival Package.

The money is intended to help sporting venues suffering financially from the absence of spectators, who have been unable to attend racing since March this year other than at two pilot events. This has led to a significant number of redundancies at racecourses. It has also reduced the flow of funds to racing’s participants, which in turn hits the rural economies where so many are based.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) Oliver Dowden announced that £300 million of grants and loans in total would be made available across 11 specific sports. The fund will be administered by an independent decision-making Board supported by Sport England.

The government announced in September that the planned return of spectators from 1 October would be delayed for up to six months. The Prime Minister promised financial help to affected sports and instructed the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to work with DCMS to come up with a package of support.

Working with racecourses and horsemen, the BHA put in a detailed submission to government at the beginning of October. This included an updated assessment of the economic impact of the absence of spectators for a further six months until the end of March. This estimated that racing would lose a further £70 million in this period, including direct losses to racecourses from lost ticket sales and the consequential reduction in returns to the sport’s participants. Individual racecourses, coordinated by the RCA, put in financial information to support the submission.

The BHA and RCA subsequently spoke directly to government officials and advisers putting together the funding package. MPs from racing areas were contacted by the BHA’s Public Affairs team and briefed on the financial challenges facing the industry. It was highlighted that the most important way government could help racing was to secure the return of spectators at the earliest opportunity.

The message to politicians has been that the racing industry faces a significant contraction if spectators cannot return by the spring. The additional support for prize money provided by the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) lasts only until April. The survival package may present an opportunity to reduce some of the financial pressures on racing and further discussions are expected with the HBLB.

The most significant pressure – the absence of spectators – remains, whilst the closure of betting shops will further impact the amount raised by the Levy. We continue to press government to address structural challenges with the funding of horseracing, which would be best addressed by an immediate review of the Levy and its contribution to the international competitiveness of British racing.

The BHA is seeking further details of the criteria that will be used to issue loans. Grants will be only be available in exceptional circumstances. It is also seeking further clarification from the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments as to how any funding will be made available to Scottish and Welsh racecourses to ensure a level playing field.

Nick Rust, Chief Executive of the BHA, said:"The support for racing recognises the sport’s position as the second biggest spectator sport in the UK and the financial peril faced by the tens of thousands who depend upon racing for their livelihoods. We are grateful to DCMS and its ministers and officials who have come together with their colleagues at the Treasury to secure this assistance for horseracing. We also thank the many MPs who have supported the need to help the racing businesses in their constituencies. Once again, this demonstrates that when racing speaks to government with one voice, we are so much more effective.

"I would also like to thank the members of the BHA team who put our submission together and presented it to government and officials. They work tirelessly to protect the interests of racing. Whilst advancing the case for financial support, they have also helped to ensure the sport continues behind closed doors, with owners present, and supported the efforts to get spectators back. I am very proud of all they are achieving."

David Armstrong, Chief Executive of the RCA said: "On behalf of our members, we welcome the announcement of financial support for Racing and look forward to working with Government and Sport England on how this funding will be allocated. Racecourses face an extremely challenging environment until spectators can return in full and we continue to work closely with Government and other major sports to expedite this as quickly as possible."

Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the ROA, added on behalf of The Horsemen’s Group: "As we continue without spectators on courses, this financial support from Government is vital and welcome. There are clear challenges for our sport with the flow of funds to participants severely restricted, impacting the grassroots every day. I hope that this additional support for racecourses will work for everyone in the sport and we see the funding trickle down to the committed participants that keep racing going. There is more to do to address structural funding issues and we continue to support calls for Levy reform."







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