Over a quarter of the UK’s race meetings may be put up for sale as Arena Leisure reviews its options. The company owns the all-weather venues at Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton in addition to Doncaster, Folkestone, Windsor and Worcester. The all-weather venues are the more lucrative of Arena’s catalogue due to the fact that they can stage a shed-load more meetings than just grass. This will alert the rumored main suitor Northern Racing that doesn’t actually have a track with that option. The company, owned by Reuben Brothers, one of the suitors for the Tote, would then be responsible for around 40% of the UK programme in terms of fixtures if they obtain Arena.
That same fixture list was the subject of the new president of the Racehorse Owners’ Association’s (ROA) first speech to the organization’s AGM. Rachel Hood called for radical changes including the introduction of “third tier” racecards to benefit off-course bookmakers. It would be funded by direct negotiation between racecourses and the betting companies.
She told her members, “bookmakers … have used every ruse imaginable to diminish what they pay in Levy“, and that “the time for inaction has gone and we need to act now if the sport’s finances are to be protected and improved.”
Hood also added, “This new system would be fixture-based, not racecourse-based. Many racecourses would have fixtures that were Levy-funded and others that were not. Racecourses would find that at least some of their fixtures would work better for them outside of the Levy-funded structure, with no race planning or scheduling or prize money restrictions.”
The RGA’s plans will likely receive short shrift from both the Horsemen’s Group and British Horseracing Authority. This is due to a funding system that would use betting and media rights over the current Levy system. It’s not usually likely that the Levy system is successfully challenged so any high hopes that this will change anything could easily be extinguished.