Today the British Horseracing Authority released their Recovery Plan designed to restore the sport to its levels experienced prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Whether it proves to be a success or not remains to be see, but the nine goals outlined in the document will, if achieved, certainly help to preserve the future of a sport that appears to be on shaky ground.
Here’s a quick overview of what racing fans can expect over the next year or so:
1) Maximum Attendances and Optimum Spectator Experience
The hope across the sporting spectrum is that fans will be able to attend live events as of October 1, although that is subject to governmental approval. There will be limited numbers allowed through the gates, too.
The BHA is working towards getting punters back at trackside, and their plan points to a ‘full resumption of race day activity’ in the near future, with as many people as is safe and recommended being permitted to attend meetings across the land.
2) The Safe Return of Racing
By and large, the social distancing measures that have been introduced alongside other safety precautions have been met with positivity by those within the sport.
And the BHA wants that to continue, and they have strengthened their communication channels with the government’s medical advisors.
3) A Big Year in 2021
The BHA have already started work on the fixture list for 2021, and the insinuation – perhaps – is that there will be more meetings across the board.
Their plan is to create a race programme that ‘balances increasing revenues with the wellbeing of participants and staff and takes account of the horse population.’
4) Immediate Levy Reform
This is the item that most wanted to see. The BHA have explicitly confirmed they will be looking at the Levy, with the idea of maximising the revenue coming into the sport while minimising the amount in costs that flows out of racing.
5) Maximise Prize Money
Whether these are token words or not, the BHA have promised to review prize money and look to increase the amount of riches on offer to owners where feasible.
There has been significant criticism from some quarters that prize money is too low at the minute, and that for smaller meetings it’s not even worth making the effort to get the horses onto the course. This review cannot come soon enough.
6) An Agreed Spending Plan
The BHA have understood that they are going to have to spend some money in order to secure the immediate future of British racing, and they will be working with a variety of stakeholders to work out how best to accelerate racing’s recovery.
7) Reformed Ownership Rules
It’s clear that owners are starting to drift away from the sport – as witnessed by the fire sale at the yard of Trevor Hemmings, one of the National Hunt’s greatest supporters.
The BHA’s wants to attract new investment into the sport, and as well as retaining existing owners they want to make it easier for syndicates to acquire horses and for individuals who have always dreamt of owning a racehorse to make an investment.
8) On-Course Betting
To quote the recovery plan, the BHA aims to ‘present a safe, high-quality and consistent offer to race-day and betting customers based on a thorough understanding of their changing needs and behaviours due to COVID.’
This presumably refers to on-course bookmakers, and how they can go about their business safely and within the accepted guidelines.
9) Long Term Sustainability
The BHA signs off the plan by stating their desire to put into place ‘foundations’ that will preserve the future of British horse racing. Everyone has their fingers crossed that they can achieve that aim.