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York records annual loss of £2.6 million due to crippling effect of pandemic

York is looking forward to welcoming back racegoers later this year
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The coronavirus pandemic has had a £5 million impact on York racecourse's bottom line, the track has revealed on the eve of its first meeting of 2021.

York recorded a loss before tax of £2.6m in the year to October 31, according to the course's latest set of accounts, compared to a profit of £2.4m the previous year. However, it said the outlook for 2021 was "reasonably positive" providing restrictions are lifted as planned from June 21.

In a normal trading year York would run 18 racedays, welcome 330,000 racegoers and host more than 700 non-raceday events, but the measures imposed due to the pandemic meant the course was only able to stage 12 meetings behind closed doors, with its only meaningful revenue coming from media and betting rights, sponsorship, the levy and entry fees.  

York said non-raceday income for the four months to March 2020 had been strong but then came to an immediate halt. Statutory turnover fell by 72 per cent to £6.7m

The course's head of finance Chris Ward said: "2020 was an extremely challenging year for the country, horseracing industry and our business.

"The response of everyone connected with York racecourse was tremendous as we sought to respond and adapt to the new reality and keep the show on the road."

York was only able to stage 12 meetings behind closed doors in 2020

To mitigate its financial position York reduced its cost of sales to £4.6m from £14m and administrative costs to £5.7m from £9m. York made use of the furlough scheme to the tune of £215,000 along with other government support schemes, loan repayments were rescheduled together with a new £5m coronavirus business interruption loan scheme facility, and bank and other loans increased by £4.4m to £7.9m.

Capital expenditure was confined to £253,000, but included a project to refurbish and improve the 26 bedrooms in an accommodation block for racing staff.

Total prize-money for 2020 was £3.6m compared to £8.8m in 2019, with the course making an executive contribution of £1.1m. However, four of York's flagship races – the Juddmonte International, Darley Yorkshire Oaks, Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes and Al Basti Equiworld Dante Stakes – will return to their pre-Covid levels this year, while overall prize-money for 2021 is scheduled to be at 80 per cent of 2019 levels.

Ward said: "Following the ongoing success of the vaccination rollout programme, and the UK government’s current roadmap out of lockdown, we are now in a position to plan for the summer ahead. The easing of restrictions should enable us to welcome spectators back to the Knavesmire and for our non-raceday events to recommence. 

"However, we are still mindful the effects of the pandemic and its impact on society could remain for some while to come, so are prepared for this and can adapt the business accordingly, as we demonstrated during 2020."

York is the latest of Britain's major independent courses to reveal the financial impact of the pandemic, with Newbury having recently announced a near £2.4m loss.

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2020 was an extremely challenging year for the country, horseracing industry and our business

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