In what has been described as a shift to align with the growth in remote betting, a series of changes to the 2017 fixture list were announced recently, with the most controversial seeing 30 twilight meetings moved to evening slots.
The decision to remove twilight fixtures was made without consulting the major retail bookmakers – who prefer the earlier meetings as it keeps punters in betting shops following afternoon racing – and is widely seen as a sanction for their failure to support the BHA’s Authorised Betting Partner policy, which so far has been backed only by online firms such as bet365 and 32Red.
This year’s total of 1,482 fixtures will increase by 12 next year, with every Saturday throughout the year to carry an evening meeting. The new-look fixture list is the first designed under the Members’ Agreement, the tripartite association between the BHA, horsemen and racecourses.
Code breaks will also be introduced in 2017. All Flat meetings on Sundays throughout the winter will be scrapped and there will be a Flat-free Sunday each month during the summer. In addition, there will be more Friday evening fixtures, worth at least £75,000 throughout the summer.
Further efforts will be made to address the geographical clashes that occur during the year, working with racecourses to achieve a more even spread where possible. This year there was only one meeting in the south on the May 30 Bank Holiday, which some have argued is not enough, given that racing should be capitalising on a day of the year that should attract a sizeable audience.
Lastly, funding incentives for racecourses will be sought to improve the quality of racing midweek and on Sundays, subject to Levy Board agreement.