The BHA answers queries about financial aid, horse welfare and resuming racing
We asked the BHA several key questions professionals, small business owners and concerned followers of the sport have about the current shutdown and its effects.
I'm a small business owner and I'm struggling to pay wages and suppliers or worried about doing so in the near future. I need assistance - what help is available and how do I access it?
We are very much aware that, with a cessation of racing, cash flow will very quickly become an issue for many of the small businesses within racing. This includes trainers – who are the sport’s main employers, managing 6,500 staff who are responsible for caring for the estimated 14,000 racehorses in the industry – but also any number of other businesses including breeders, sales houses, transporters and many more.
An industry group involving senior executives from the BHA, RCA [Racecourse Association], ROA [Racehorse Owners Association], Horsemen’s Group, GBR [Great British Racing] and NTF [National Trainers Federation] is meeting daily and pulling together the financial requirements of the various constituent parts of our industry. The group is conducting several key tasks:
- urgently seeking clarity from government on the eligibility and impacts of the packages that the Chancellor has announced and communicating it to small businesses in particular
- assessing this week what the key 'asks' for British racing are from government and seeking support for those in parliament
- engaging key industry funders such as the Horserace Betting Levy Board and Racing Foundation (and many others) to discuss priorities and help them understand which areas the industry needs them to fund
- assessing what immediate help can be given for hardship for individuals through Racing Welfare
This group is working urgently to pull together what it believes will be a powerful and compelling case to UK government in order to gain access to the assistance package which was announced by the chancellor Rishi Sunak for British businesses and the economy and to seek whatever additional help may be available. However, the coronavirus crisis is affecting all parts of life and business in Britain and racing has been warned not to expect immediate answers from government.
In the meantime we are also urgently assessing what funding exists within the sport which can be used to provide relief to businesses. These include Levy Board reserves and funds held by the Racing Foundation and it is clearly essential that we identify as soon as possible how we provide support to our participants.
What support is there for the self-employed, both immediately and coming soon?
The industry team is also considering the issues affecting self-employed workers in the industry, including jockeys. The first package of support announced by the government focused on supporting businesses, but nothing has been published as yet which is aimed at self-employed individuals. However, it is expected there will be more to come from government on this front, and as mentioned above the sport also has access to funding of its own, and how this can be used to support self-employed people will be a primary consideration.
We are also aware of excellent planning work being carried out by the PJA [Professional Jockeys Association], who have stated that, while they cannot confirm the detail right now, there will be support available for jockeys facing financial difficulty – from existing jockey-facing funding streams – and they expect to make an announcement on this front in the coming days.
Support is also available through Racing Welfare and we encourage anyone looking for more information to speak to their representative body or the BHA.
How will the industry help ensure racehorses are looked after, particularly if owners or trainers are struggling to afford their upkeep?
We know that the training of racehorses includes significant bills for staff and a range of services, from veterinary care to feed supplies and farriery, which still need to be met even without the income that would normally be derived from racing.
Moreover, as owners are financially impacted then their ability to pay for the upkeep of their horses might be affected. In order to meet these challenges, and many others, the sport is currently pulling together an industry-wide action plan. One of the fundamental pillars of this plan will be ensuring the welfare of our horses is impacted as little as possible, both through the financial support we hope will be available to trainers, and a safety net to ensure that horses are not at risk of falling into neglect.
We know that the vast majority of those involved in racehorse ownership fully understand and accept their personal responsibility to the welfare of their horses, and we would hope that many, if able, will continue to support their trainers with training fees during this period.
What steps should the industry take to keep staff healthy?
The sport’s Covid-19 steering group has been responsible for sharing detailed guidance with the industry for a number of weeks, working alongside the relevant representative bodies. This has included government advice on controlling the spread of the disease, alongside bespoke guidance for various sectors of the racing industry. The relevant government and industry guidance is posted on the dedicated coronavirus page of the BHA website and we would advise everyone in the sport to familiarise themselves with all of this guidance, and keep checking this page for further updates and announcements.
The industry group also looks at the welfare of people in our industry, including their mental health. Racing Welfare exists to support and counsel past and former staff and participants and has already begun developing a plan to respond to the crisis.
Membership organisations also continue to share valuable information and guidance either directly and/or on their websites.
What are the prospects of racing restarting as scheduled? Could racing resume on a reduced scale and/or behind closed doors?
It is too early to say for certain, and we have stated that the timing of a return will be kept under constant review. An important strand of the industry group’s work is to plan for the resumption of racing and develop options that would enable us to restart at the earliest opportunity.
One thing is for certain – while public health must be the number one, overriding consideration – we will do all we can to ensure that racing is back up and running as soon as we are able. We are fully aware of the effect that the shutdown will have on businesses and livelihoods and we will seek to get the industry moving again as quickly as possible.
How will that decision be made and who will make it?
Any decision to resume racing will ultimately be one for the BHA board to take, in the same manner as the decision to suspend racing. However any such decision will be taken in close consultation with all of the sport’s stakeholders, with the government and with the providers of medical services.
What can the industry expect to hear from the BHA in the coming days?
As you will see from the announcement we issued on Thursday there is a substantial amount of work under way across the entire sport and a detailed and coordinated plan being developed. The sport’s coronavirus steering group carried out a significant amount of planning and preparation over the last few weeks, but the focus of the plan shifted dramatically over the last 72 hours to focus on meeting the immediate needs of individuals facing hardship and working on a financial response.
We will be communicating as often as we possibly can as the details of this plan are finalised and put into action, and also as we progress our work on the financial situation. We must manage expectations here – the answers when it comes to the economics of the sport are unlikely to present themselves overnight, but the industry’s leaders are working round the clock to progress these matters as quickly as we can as we know how important any news and updates on this matter will be to our participants.
Finally, what is your message to all those who work in or care about racing?
Now, more than ever, we must show unity and solidarity. We are faced with a national emergency and there are going to be some hard times ahead for our industry, as with many others. We are going to need to have resolve, and also patience – the situation is developing all the time and no one, whether in horseracing, sport or government itself, knows exactly when or how this will end.
However, please be reassured that the sport is acting with swiftness, determination and all of its available resources to tackle this issue. If we support each other, work together and speak as one then we will be so much better equipped to come through this crisis.
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