Levy reform a solid foundation says Jockey Club chief
Levy reform gives racing and the betting industry a solid foundation to work together for the benefit of both sectors, according to the group chief executive of the Jockey Club Simon Bazalgette.
He was speaking after the Jockey Club unveiled its results for 2016, which included its eighth successive year of turnover growth as well as record operating profit.
The government's levy reforms came into force on Tuesday and are set to boost British racing's income by more than £30 million per annum.
Bazalgette said: "What we look forward to now is a solid foundation for a real commercial and strategic alignment between racing and the betting industry.
"We now have everything in place to do that and I'm sure we'll be seeing those benefits relatively quickly because I know from talking to all the major betting operators they are keen to have exactly the same discussions."
The Jockey Club increased its contribution to prize-money to £20.8m in 2016, a sum which is due to increase by a further £2.1m this year.
Racing's leadership has said prize-money for the grassroots of British racing will benefit to the tune of £8m next year from the levy reforms.
Bazalgette added: "In terms of where the short-term priorities should be I think we're all agreed, but equally I don't think the BHA or anyone else would say we should be doing that at the expense of the top.
"From year to year there will be a touch on the tiller about where the best use of resources can be made."
Time to get serious
Jockey Club senior steward Roger Weatherby said the certainty provided by the levy reforms should act as a catalyst for the sport to look ahead.
He said, with the Jockey Club's controversial plans to sell Kempton Park for housing in mind, that it was time for the sport to "get serious" about its future.
"I think there's an understanding that big decisions have to be made and decisions not necessarily everybody agrees with around having sufficient money to invest in what we strongly feel is the right future for the sport," Weatherby said.
On Kempton he added: "It would be fair to say that pretty much everybody understands the logic behind it. We have a few members who do disagree and I think that's absolutely healthy and right.
"What we are trying to show and what people understand is that we cannot do the right things around National Hunt and grassroots, technology, and creating the right environment for that discerning customer, without money. That is the debate and discussion we're all having."
Jockey Club turnover increased to £191.5m in 2016, up by 4.5 per cent year-on-year, driven by its major racing festivals, the Jockey Club Live joint venture, commercial partnerships, media licence fees and record numbers of racehorses using Jockey Club Estates’ training facilities. Operating profit of £22.6m was up from £21.9m in 2015.
'Another year of good growth'
Bazalgette said: "It was another great year, another year of good growth in the top line and we were able to reinvest significantly more back into the sport both in things like facilities but also importantly in prize-money."
Group debt fell to £100.7m from £105.8m following refinancing.
Bazalgette added: "We are in a very good position, the refinancing allows us to continue to invest. It's a very manageable and conservative level of debt for the business that we are."
Looking ahead, Bazalgette said the Jockey Club was committed to the racecourse project looking to start its own pool-betting operation next year.
"We're very confident we'll have a very strong proposition when we launch in July 2018," he added.
Bazalgette also said he was pleased with the level of commitment shown by ITV in the sport.
He went on: "I think they have really shown that commitment in what they have done so far and we're very pleased to have them as a partner."