The saga of the levy review reached its conclusion in dramatic fashion when the Prime Minister called a surprise early election on May 22. In the days leading up to Rishi Sunak’s rain-soaked announcement, a final push had been taking place to agree a deal on the statutory levy.

Much has been written and said about what happened during these negotiations. The bottom line is that after significant intervention from the Treasury and with the promise of a review on an overseas levy as well as racing’s wider funding model, the Secretary of State was set to table a written statement to parliament on May 23 that would have seen an increase in the base levy rate. This would have been initially voluntary but with the intention of securing the statutory instrument within two months.

Obviously, with the snap election called, the Betting and Gaming Council took the opportunity to withdraw and then make claims that there was never a deal agreed. Other claims around offers that had been made previously to racing are at best fanciful. There was never a workable offer that dealt with the issue of levy reform. The industry team lead by the BHA invested a huge amount of time and effort into the 12-month process, so it was very disappointing to say the least not to have attained an agreement with the BGC.

Racing must now regroup and engage with the new government to secure a fair levy review that was promised to have been completed by May 2024. Two members of the industry team, British Horseracing Authority CEO Julie Harrington and Jockey Club CEO Nevis Truesdale, have both announced that they will be leaving their posts at the end of this year. Perhaps this will focus everyone’s minds on trying to get the review completed within that timeframe.

There has clearly been a degree of turbulence at some of racing’s larger institutions. Joe Saumarez Smith will end his stint as BHA Chair next May and the search for his replacement has commenced, Dido Harding takes over from Sandy Dudgeon as Senior Steward at the Jockey Club this month, and of course both Julie and Nevin have announced their departures. There is a degree of coincidence about the movements, but it does provide the industry an opportunity to continue to build on the governance changes concluded in 2022 and seek to arrest the decline that has been seen within the industry.

The Jockey Club is a key player, being the second largest racecourse group in Britain and by far the most important factor in National Hunt racing. The sport often measures itself as a whole, yet there are two distinct and very different strands. The continued growth in international Flat racing and the opportunities that exist in super- charging Britain’s premier position in that arena are enticing, and obviously the Jockey Club could play a vital role. Perhaps the bigger challenge is dealing with the decline in National Hunt racing.

With both Cheltenham and Aintree in their stable, the popularity and indeed continued survival of jump racing rests to a large degree with the Jockey Club. Falling attendance figures at Cheltenham and Aintree are of great concern but public engagement is not the only issue; it will be high on the priority list for the new Senior Steward and CEO.

As I write, Labour is 40-1 on to assume power in early July. British racing has in the past had extremely strong links with the Conservative party and indeed the lobbying that we were able to organise during the levy reform process undoubtedly made a difference in getting to the point we did. With a Labour government, we must in essence start again and build relationships to make our case.

Racing is a vital contributor to the rural economy and there are many links between the sport and traditional Labour values and seats. The new team at the BHA will need to be fully engaged with the new political landscape and look to build strong links between our fantastic sport and the powers that be.

As we head into the summer, racing again faces some big challenges with some key changes to personnel. We must hope that the opportunities that undoubtedly exist can be seized, and we can really begin to build momentum, both financially and engagement-wise.