The Horserace Betting Levy Board on Friday announced that the organisation had returned a higher than expected yield of £97 million for the year ending March 31, 2020.

Originally, a range of £90-£95m had been forecast but the additional £2m makes the return the highest for three years and is significantly higher than 2019’s yield of £83m. The news comes as a welcome boost to racing as it navigates the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul Darling, Chairman of the Levy Board, said: “It is very welcome that levy yield for the past year looks like being in line with, if not just ahead of, expectations. This removes one of the current uncertainties for us in our financial planning.

“I would like to thank all those bookmakers who have made timely returns to us in the current difficult circumstances and also to those whose voluntary monthly reporting of betting performance during the past year has enabled us to make forecasts with increased confidence and precision.

“The additional revenue will be built into our modelling as now focus on the contribution that the Levy Board can make at the point that racing fixtures resume in line with government requirements and guidance. These discussions are ongoing with the key parties involved.

“We understand the particular importance of Levy Board funding at this time. We expect to be making a greater than usual contribution to prize-money as and when racing resumes, albeit that we must do so on a financially responsible basis in recognition of the wider uncertainty around our own ongoing future income.”

A BHA spokesman added: “We are pleased to see the rise in levy yield for 2019-20 following the decline in the previous year. This indicates British racing continues to engage fans and the betting public.

“The higher than forecast out-turn is a significant help at a very challenging time for the finances of our industry. We welcome that HBLB and the Racing Foundation have already committed significant support to the industry and its participants through a £28m package to support the hardest hit and to provide cash flow for businesses and employers.

“Additional levy income received can assist with managing the economics of a resumption of racing when that becomes possible.

“It is clear that we are highly unlikely to see such a yield in 2020-21, however, and the increase in levy yield compared to last year is significantly outweighed by the revenues already lost as a result of the necessary suspension of racing.”

Racing resumption plans advancing

The Resumption of Racing group has revealed that next week will see the release of a provisional programme for when the sport resumes.

A statement said: “To help trainers plan, during the next week we will be developing a provisional programme for the first seven days of racing following resumption – whatever the resumption date.

“We will then subsequently publish the rest of the provisional programme up until the end of June. This will be as close as possible to the original programme for the period, which means we will be looking to stage roughly the same number of races by type, class and distance.

“Ahead of this, we will issue a fixture cancellation notice for all fixtures that were originally scheduled to take place during May and June. This simply reflects the fact that we will be publishing a new provisional programme and does not seek to pre-empt or pre-judge any government decisions around lockdown or resumption.”

Representatives from the British Horseracing Authority, the Horsemen’s Group, the Racecourse Association and the Levy Board also outlined that the new programme will have lower prize-money on offer.

It added: “In normal circumstances, racecourses provide approximately half of prize-money, but with betting shops, which drive media rights income, closed and no crowds, their contributions will be significantly impacted.

“Every effort will be made to keep prize-money as high as possible, but reductions below recent levels are inevitable.”

 Germany’s return awaits government approval

The return of racing in Germany depends on the country’s government giving the green light.

Deutscher Galopp is hoping to hold a meeting at Dortmund on Monday, which has attracted 69 declarations but will only be staged if approval is given before Sunday.

Dr Michael Vesper, President of Deutscher Galopp, said: “The Chancellor’s meeting with state leaders unfortunately did not produce any new result for us, because the next steps on professional sport will not be discussed until the next meeting on May 6.

“We still hope to hold the meeting on Monday. The current regulations are valid until May 2. Since there can be no regulation-free time, it is up to the federal states to decide how to proceed.”