Goodwood and Qatar in talks over future of record sponsorship deal
Uncertainty has been raised about the future of what was billed as British racing's biggest-ever sponsorship deal after Sheikh Joaan Al Thani revealed Qatar's backing of Glorious Goodwood, which was announced as a ten-year arrangement, could conceivably end after just half that time in 2019.
Goodwood managing director Adam Waterworth confirmed the deal contained a break clause and that negotiations regarding the second half of the contract were ongoing, but added: "I'd be surprised if it wasn't the Qatar Goodwood festival from 2020 and beyond."
Al Shaqab founder Sheikh Joaan, a brother of the Emir of Qatar, has long been viewed as a pivotal figure in the Goodwood partnership, which has led to huge increases in prize-money over the five-day meeting, most notably through the rise in value of the Qatar Sussex Stakes to £1 million.
However, speaking to ITV Racing's Ed Chamberlin in an interview broadcast on Saturday, the Classic-winning owner stated the contract – signed by the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, a state-run organisation – ends next year after just five stagings of the rebranded Qatar Goodwood Festival.
"We have a contract with the guys in charge of Goodwood and our contract ends in 2019 with an option of continuing it," said Sheikh Joaan.
"I'm not in charge of Goodwood. The guys in the equestrian federation back in Qatar are now renegotiating on maybe continuing. That's what I heard.
"For me, I would love it to continue. It is one of the biggest festivals in the UK. I really would love [to continue], but I don't know about the federation. At the end of the day QREC have the call."
Goodwood's Waterworth said: "Our sponsorship has never been with Al Shaqab, it's always been with the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club.
"The Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club is a government institution and, the same as any government department, they have a process that they have to work through and they're working through it at the moment. I'd be pretty hopeful we'll be making a positive announcement within a relatively short space of time."
He added: "We've done a ten-year deal and it's very rare you do a ten-year deal without some form of break clause in there. So all the conversations now are about whether there are tweaks we want to do for the second five years or whether we carry on under exactly the same terms.
Goodwood’s owner, the Duke of Richmond, said in comments released by the Qatar Racing And Equestrian Club on Saturday evening, that he hoped to continue working with the Qataris into the future.
He said: “Sheikh Joaan supports the Qatar Goodwood festival and seeks [its] ongoing development. Qatar’s sponsorship has helped us attract top-quality runners and improve facilities.
“The Qataris are very cooperative with us [helping] to develop and enhance the festival. Racing at the QREC is in continuous improvement and we work together for the better.”
He added: “We’re considering introducing a Goodwood Cup race at Al Rayyan racecourse in Doha in the future and we will be very excited if it is held.”
Sheikh Joaan attended the first two days of the festival and twice saw his colours carried to victory. However, those colours have been less visible this year after Al Shaqab – which over the winter suffered the embarrassment of amassing training fee debts of around £1m – reduced its British string from 80 horses to 60.
Asked about rumours concerning Al Shaqab abandoning its British operation completely in favour of France, the sheikh added: "These rumours are false.
"Honestly, we – myself, the family, the team – enjoy racing in England. We have horses with top trainers in England. My farm is in France and it is only fair to have the actual base in France."
Al Shaqab has also this year parted company with Frankie Dettori, who chose not to extend his role as retained rider, trainer Luca Cumani and racing manager Harry Herbert.
Read The Briefing from 8.30am daily on racingpost.com with all the day's latest going, weather, market moves and non-runner news