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Jul 14 2014

Arena Racing Company (“ARC”) welcomes the British Horseracing Authority’s (“BHA”) update on the 2015 Fixture List Process.

In particular ARC is pleased by the BHA’s continued support for the All-Weather track at Newcastle and that it plans to maintain a Fixture List broadly in line with that of 2014. However, ARC would like to seek reassurances that there will be no unnecessary cuts to race numbers next year.

With regard to the allocation of leasehold fixtures ARC reiterates its belief that a straightforward money-based auction will maximize prize money for horsemen and benefit the widest number of stakeholders within British Racing.

In maintaining the long term health of the sport it is not clear how, as set out in the recent BHA 2015 Fixture List Consultation Document (“the Consultation”), the immediate financial impact of cutting races could be mitigated, even in the medium term. The Consultation does not fully recognise the impact cutting races will have on all in, or connected to, British Racing. Specifically it does not include the impact on the betting industry and other auxiliary costs which will have an additional negative impact on many within British Racing, including jockeys, stable and racecourse staff and other industry support staff. Having done its own calculations on the impact of 300 races being cut from the race programme ARC believes, if the impact of the betting industry is taken into account, the industry will be over £11 million worse off each and every year.

The Consultation appears to be silent as to how this “lost” income will be regained, let alone exceeded at any point in the future. At the same time the Consultation shows there would be a clear positive financial impact if the current number of fixtures was increased. This could be achieved with better management of the horse population and new racing opportunities, such as the All-Weather track at Newcastle.

It is in the best interests of British Racing that, rather than cutting races, all positive initiatives are extensively trialled using targeted and measureable methods for boosting field sizes. ARC’s response to the Consultation included the following:

- Considering if there are times of the year or classes of race where horse population requirements would support an increase in the number of races run; for example moving races from January to March and across to September and October;
- Improving the flexibility for race divisions where demand warrants it;
- Implementing field size limits or caps where appropriate;
- Improving the owners entry system, for example the exploration of expanding the ability to supplement horses after the six-day entry date;
- Reviewing the reservation system to allow for the late supplementing of horses in the case of non-runners after declarations;
- Improving the management for Non-Runners and Self-Certification;
- Ensuring parity between British, Irish & French entry fees and charges, for example for the 2015 All-Weather Championships to encourage more runners within Great Britain; and
- Improving racing planning between the BHA, racecourse and horsemen, for example:
- Improving BHA and racecourse communication and co-ordination in order to optimise the race programme across all classes and types of races;
- Investigating whether increasing the number of races allocated to Interactive Race Planning (IRP) would increase flexibility and improve trainer engagement;
- Improving the real-time information available via Weatherbys about the horse population at any given time, including availability to run, preferred distances and rating (rather than simply number of horses);
- Addressing over strong Saturdays, improving the quality of Sunday racing and refining mid-week racing by establishing a feature betting race each day.
ARC welcomes the opportunity to continue to work with the BHA, Racecourse Association (RCA) and Horsemen to see how these, and any other positive initiatives, can be developed and practically implemented.

ARC believes that the proposed process for the allocation of leasehold fixtures, via a ‘balanced scorecard’, is missing a crucial opportunity to maximise prize money within the sport. ARC’s preferred method, and the only one it considers to be legally robust, fair, non-discriminatory and transparent to all parties bidding for fixtures is one which is based solely on the amount of money bid for each fixture. This would offer the advantages of boosting prize money for horsemen, being compatible with the aims of Prize Money Agreements and allowing all racecourses, regardless of size and heritage, to compete on a level playing field.

Tony Kelly, ARC Managing Director, said: “We welcome the continued support the BHA is showing for the development of the All-Weather track at Newcastle. While we agree with the BHA’s decision announced today to maintain the current size of the fixture list we are unconvinced that there has been a full analysis of the financial impact a cut in race numbers would have on all within British Racing. ARC would like to work with the BHA on developing positive initiatives that can be used to address small field sizes, rather than see the focus remain on shrinking British Racing.

“In 2010 there was a transparent and fair bidding process for the allocation of leasehold fixtures. It remains ARC’s clear belief that this is the best method as it offers the most straight forward method of increasing prize money for horsemen and allowing racecourse to compete fairly.

“We look forward to continuing to engage directly, and via the RCA, with the BHA, and all British Racing’s stakeholders as this process continues.”