Racing received a welcome boost in its continuing battle of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday when the British government revealed the sport is to receive a £40 million payout as part of wider financial support for major spectator sports in England.
Known as the ‘Sport Winter Survival Package’, the funding intends to help racecourse who have not been able to welcome spectators since the middle of March and have therefore had to make a number of redundancies. It has also reduced the flow of funds to those who participate in the sport.
Having been told that the planned return of spectators from October would be delayed for up to six months, the BHA worked alongside racecourse and horsemen to put together a detailed submission to government for the package of support needed.
The submission estimated that racing would lose a further £70 million in this period and the financial challenges facing the industry, including the impact the closure of betting shops, has on the amount of money raised by the Horserace Betting Levy Board.
Racing is continuing to press government for an immediate review of the Levy and its contribution to the international competitiveness of British racing.
Made up of grants and loans, racing’s aid from the Sport Winter Survival Package will have its funds administered by an independent decision-making board supported by Sport England. Grants will only be available in exceptional circumstances.
The BHA is seeking further details of the criteria that will be used to issue loans as well gaining further clarification from the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments as to how funding will be made to Scottish and Welsh racecourses to ensure a level playing field.
Nick Rust, Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Authority, said: “The support for racing recognises the sport’s position as the second biggest spectator sport in the UK and the financial peril faced by the tens of thousands who depend upon racing for their livelihoods.
“We are grateful to DCMS and its ministers and officials who have come together with their colleagues at the Treasury to secure this assistance for horseracing. We also thank the many MPs who have supported the need to help the racing businesses in their constituencies.
“Once again, this demonstrates that when racing speaks to government with one voice, we are so much more effective.
“I would also like to thank the members of the BHA team who put our submission together and presented it to government and officials. They work tirelessly to protect the interest of racing.
“Whilst advancing the case for financial support, they have also helped to ensure the sport continues behind closed doors, with owners’ present, and supported the efforts to get spectators back. I am very proud of all they are achieving.”
Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the ROA, added: “As we continue without spectators on courses, this financial support for government is vital and welcome. There are clear challenges for our sport with the flow of funds to participants severely restricted, impacting the grassroots every day.
“I hope that this additional support for racecourses will work for everyone in the sport and we see the funding trickle down to the committed participants that keep racing going. There is more to do to address structural funding issues and we continue to support calls for Levy reform.”