BHA to reveal details on Thursday of major fixture list changes agreed at crucial board meeting

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More details of the changes planned for the 2024 fixture list are expected on ThursdayCredit: Edward Whitaker

Details of the major decisions made about the 2024 fixture list at a pivotal meeting of the BHA this week are set to be revealed to the wider industry on Thursday.  

Among the potential innovations which were discussed at the crucial meeting was that of the controversial subject of premierisation, which has caused consternation among a number of the smaller independent racecourses to the extent that the possibility of legal action has been threatened unless a compromise can be found.

Officials representing courses from Newton Abbot to Musselburgh have voiced their concerns about the concept of premierisation, which aims to more clearly identify and financially reward the top level of British racing in the hope of stimulating greater engagement and betting interest and retaining equine talent.

The most controversial aspect has been the plan to 'declutter' the crucial 2pm to 4pm slot on Saturday afternoons when racing is televised on ITV, which would generally feature two 'premier' meetings and one 'core' fixture.

Other meetings which would usually take place on Saturday afternoons would instead be shifted to earlier or later slots which has raised fears of a major financial impact for the smaller courses affected.

It is understood the BHA board had a number of options to consider, including imposing a blanket approach to premierisation but also some courses volunteering to shift their meetings as part of a trial and a hybrid of the two approaches.

Earlier this week Ripon managing director James Hutchinson said they had offered a fixture at the course in April to be shifted as part of a trial of the idea and officials at Yarmouth said on Wednesday their meeting on Grand National day next year was due to start at 4pm.

YARMOUTH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Harry Davies riding Priscilla's Wish (R) win The At The Races App Market Movers Fillies' Handicap Stakes at Yarmouth Racecourse on September 14, 2022 in Yarmouth, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Yarmouth: fixture on Grand National day set to start at 4pmCredit: Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

British racing's leadership agreed on the need to formulate a long-term industry strategy at a summit last September, and the changes to next year's fixture list have been the most pressing aspect of the work done since that point. It is understood ten proposals were discussed by the BHA board on Tuesday which had been brought to them by the cross-industry commercial committee and which included details of the sometimes differing views of those involved.

After the meeting BHA chair Joe Saumarez Smith said that principles to bring "innovation and improvement" to next year's fixture list had been "debated and agreed unanimously". Some of those proposals will, however, need to be the subject of further talks with the likes of the Levy Board, including the need to agree where the extra funding for premier fixtures will come from.

Hutchinson told the Racing Post this week that prize-money for each premier fixture would be in excess of £200,000. It is understood that other aspects of the 2024 fixture list which were discussed by the board included changes to Sunday racing, including the possibility of Sunday evening racing.

Changes to make British racing more competitive at certain times of the year are also believed to have been on the agenda, including the removal of a number of jumps races from the programme and moving some Flat turf meetings from the summer, when there has been downward pressure on field sizes, to the autumn when demand from the horse population is greater.

Read these next:

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'We must take a leap of faith' - Racecourse Association chair calls for racing to act quickly as challenges loom  

'They can't carry on thinking they're going to have prime slots to run dross' - Mark Johnston defends premierisation 

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Bill BarberIndustry editor
Published on 24 May 2023Last updated 20:09, 24 May 2023