Ralph Beckett blasts Arc over 'disgraceful' £3m cut to prize-money contribution
Leading trainer Ralph Beckett has described as disgraceful the decision by Arena Racing Company (Arc) to reduce its contribution to prize-money by £3 million in 2019.
Arc has decided to tighten its belt due to fears its media rights income will be hit by betting shops closing as a result of the government's decision to cut FOBT stakes to £2.
The £3m would have been used to unlock extra prize-money from levy funds for the lower levels of the sport. The changes, which come into effect on February 11, will affect 3,406 races.
Beckett, speaking personally and not in his role as an National Trainers Federation council member, said: “I think the fact that Arc has made an announcement now about February, when the FOBT reduction doesn’t kick in until April, means we can expect another announcement from them later in the year.
“I don’t think this will be the last reduction in their contributions. They hint at that in their announcement so I’m not pointing out anything we can’t all see for ourselves.
“I think it’s hugely disappointing when they have made as much money as they have in media rights over recent years. More than disappointing, I think it’s disgraceful.
"This is just another example of the 'stack'em high, sell'em cheap' mentality that we became accustomed to under the previous management. This is just more of the same and I’m really disappointed.”
Beckett’s concern was shared by leading jumps trainer Harry Fry. He said: “It’s disappointing for the industry but if any company were going to do it, I’m not surprised it’s Arc. It sums up their track record really.
“For any other racecourse group to follow would be bad news, with so much good work done with prize-money over the last couple of years. It would be a real setback if all other racecourse owners were to follow Arc's example.”
The Horsemen’s Group called on the sport to make sure that any prize-money cuts were not concentrated on one part of the industry.
It has been estimated that British racing's income could be hit to the tune of £40-£60m should predictions of thousands of betting shops closing as a result of the government's crackdown come to pass.
It is understood Arc is budgeting for 1,000 betting shops to have closed by this time next year.
A joint statement from the HG, which represents owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys and stable staff, said: "It would be naive of horsemen not to expect that decline in betting shops' FOBT income and racecourses’ media rights income would impact on prize-money in due course.
"However, focusing cuts on the payments required to unlock the Levy Board contribution to the appearance money scheme and race incentive fund will impact most on grassroots racing and those horsemen on whom racecourses depend to deliver it."
Arc has called for the support of the HG and BHA in ensuring levy funding continues for the grassroots of the sport even if racecourses do not trigger the payments by making extra contributions themselves.
The HG statement added: "Any discussions on a tripartite submission to the Levy Board and review of funding and allocation of levy income requires transparency from all racecourses on the impact of betting shop closures on that media rights income in order that the impact of its reduction on prize-money is both proportionate and is not concentrated on any one part of the industry."
The Jockey Club said it would not comment on Arc's announcement.
A spokesperson added: "However, what we can say is we fully support the Racecourse Association position that the financial picture for racecourses is changing and that courses need to work with the Horsemen's Group and the BHA to try to manage this as best as possible.
"We will be making an announcement outlining our prize-money plans for 2019 as normal and in due course."
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