RCA: Britain's tracks facing a period of opportunity and threat
British racecourses face a time of "both great opportunity and significant threat", according to Racecourse Association chairman Maggie Carver.
Carver made her comments in her statement in the RCA's annual report, published on Thursday, when she spoke of the extra income expected to flow from the government's reforms of the levy system being balanced by the possibility of diminishing revenue from media rights.
The government's reforms of the levy, which will capture operators based offshore for the first time, are expected to bring in more than £30 million of extra income per year for British racing, although not all of that increase will be available to spend initially.
Carver said the RCA, BHA and Horsemen's Group were working on a three-year plan to boost prize-money at the lower levels of the sport from 2018.
'A more positive relationship'
She added: "In addition, there are requests for extra support for training and welfare but it is also, in my view, of paramount importance that we use this opportunity to invest in the growth of our sport, both in terms of its popularity with the public and as a betting medium.
"Taking the latter first, I'm hopeful that, since the new scheme obviates the need for annual levy negotiations with the bookmakers, we'll be able to forge a more positive relationship with them and to work co-operatively, using their data and ours, to increase betting turnover and develop new products."
In terms of the popularity of British racing, Carver said the RCA had formed a group to work on improving the image of racing.
She added: "This feeds into a new sponsorship group that has been set up with GBR, with the participation of ITV Racing, to explore fresh sponsorship opportunities across racecourses."
Carver said the new pool betting operation being planned by Britain's courses from July next year was another opportunity for racecourses.
"I'm excited by these initiatives, which will surely have a positive effect, both on the racecourse and off, and wish all racecourses every success with their plans," she added
Threats over media rights
However, Carver said the importance of investing in the sport was underlined by threats over media rights and the shift in betting to online.
"Media rights payments now dwarf levy receipts," Carver wrote. "It's these payments that have been responsible for the growth in prize-money, up 47 per cent in five years with racecourse executive contribution now £68.5 million, 50 per cent of the total.
"Failure to sell these rights, or a significant reduction in value, would change our racing landscape."
She added: "On top of that, not only are online betting margins estimated to be half that of betting shops, but competition with other higher-margin sports is fiercer.
"As betting shifts online, this will affect our income from the levy. In this context, we are particularly fortunate to have the levy uplift which can, and should, be used to help us adjust to the new betting landscape."