The UK horseracing industry is adopting a united front in the hope it will convince the government to impose a ‘racing right’ fee on bookmakers.
On Thursday, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced it had signed a deal with the Racecourse Association, the Racehorse Owners Association, the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the National Trainers Federation, the Professional Jockeys Association and the National Association of Stable Staff.
The plan is for a board to make strategic decisions on matters affecting the industry as a whole. Members have agreed to abide by majority decisions made by this board, even if these are not in some members’ commercial interest.
That’s the theory, at least, and it remains to be seen if the alliance can hold. The parties have agreed to give the plan a try until March 2017, after which members will reconsider whether to continue the arrangement.
That may be all the time the group needs in order to achieve its main objective. Philip Freedman, chairman of the Horsemen’s Group, said racing’s new governance structure was “fit for purpose,” namely, convincing the UK government to impose the promised Horserace Betting Right as a replacement for the much-loathed Levy system.
Thursday’s announcement comes less than a week after talks broke down between the BHA and the Bookmakers’ Committee over the amount bookies would contribute to the 55th Levy scheme. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has since been tasked with brokering a solution, and racing now has the opportunity to lobby the government with a unified voice.
BHA CEO Nick Rust said racing’s equivalent of the Avengers “makes us greater than the sum of our parts and represents the industry formally coming together in a manner which it rarely has in the past.”
PADDY POWER QUESTIONS LEGALITY OF RACING SPONSORSHIP BAN
Meanwhile, Irish betting operator Paddy Power has reportedly sent letters to the BHA and the UK’s two largest racetrack groups questioning the legality of racing’s plans to ban commercial relationships with bookies that racing believes haven’t made sufficient financial kickbacks to the sport.
On Tuesday, the Racing Post reported that the BHA, the Arena Racing Company and Jockey Club Racecourses had confirmed receiving letters from Paddy Power regarding the ban. The letters don’t represent legal action, but reportedly contain advice from Paddy’s lawyers that such a sponsorship ban would likely violate UK competition laws.