Full fixture list published as Levy Board shores up prize-money for May and June
Prize-money values will return to their pre-coronavirus levels after the Levy Board committed to providing a near 50 per cent higher contribution while racecourse finances continue to be hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The financial commitment to shore up prize-money levels in May and June, underpinned by increased racecourse contributions, has allowed the BHA to publish a finalised fixture list for 2021 with minimum values restored for all tiers of races.
A total of 1,486 fixtures are scheduled for 2021. However, the volume of Flat races in July and August is to be reduced by around 70 to ensure competitive racing, with forecasts of a reduction in the number of two-year-olds in training as a result of the pandemic.
BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman said: "Publishing the full fixture list now will provide greater certainty for the sport and its customers."
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The Levy Board had made a commitment to provide extra support for prize-money until the end of April but the depletion of its reserves and the closure of betting shops in January following the return of lockdown had cast doubt over its ability to continue to do so.
In total, the Levy Board has allocated expenditure of £20.1 million for May and June, comprising £16.4m for prize-money and £3.7m in regulatory and fixture grants.
Core day-to-day prize-money contributions will total £14m, an increase of 49 per cent on the £9.4m allocated in a typical May and June. The remaining contributions of around £2.4m will go to the appearance money scheme, divided races fund and the Great British Bonus incentive scheme.
Although the Levy Board's increased total contribution to prize-money is being maintained, the increased volume of meetings in May and June means its prize-money grant per race is being reduced, with racecourses filling the gap.
'It reduces one area of uncertainty for racecourses'
Wayman added: "Of course, until spectators return and retail bookmakers reopen, racecourse revenues remain under considerable pressure.
"However, the publication of the fixture list does, at least, reduce one area of uncertainty for racecourses and would allow for increased confidence in forecasting some of their future revenue streams.
"This is an essential step in providing greater clarity around prize-money levels that will apply throughout the remainder of the year ahead."
The Levy Board said its ability to provide extra support for prize-money beyond June would be considered once there was more clarity surrounding the yield for the levy year ending on March 31 along with the timetables for the opening of betting shops and the return of racegoers.
Levy Board chairman Paul Darling said: "We have agreed a funding package that maintains our overall substantial funding to prize-money levels and meets the appropriate additional regulatory costs.
"The closure of LBOs [licensed betting offices] has had an effect on our income projections, and, with the wider changing situation, it is sensible that we take a view about July onwards when the position is clearer."
The grants, along with increased racecourse contributions, will result in minimum values for Class 1 races returning to pre-Covid levels in line with other race classes. They had previously been set at 75 per cent of the original minimum level.
Darling added: "We are pleased to be able to play a significant role in restoring minimum prize-money values for the highest class of races to their pre-Covid levels, in line with all other classes. This continues to be a period of real co-operation between racing, betting and the Levy Board which has served all parties well."
Wayman said the sport was grateful to the Levy Board for its ongoing additional support but added: "There is clearly still much to be done to deliver prize-money levels that would help promote the long-term future of racing at all levels.
"Working with racecourses and participants, we will continue to develop the sport to make it attractive to both existing and new customers and investors."
Wayman said the sport would continue to liaise with the government and other bodies around the return of owners and spectators to race meetings, as well as on issues including the £40m made available from the government's winter survival fund, the potential threat from affordability checks for betting, and levy reform.