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Temporary prize fund boost agreed

Southwell picArena Racing Company is set to temporarily reassign prize-money to the lower reaches of its race programme in order to unlock levy funding as the racecourse group seeks a rapprochement in its dispute with trainers.

No new money will be committed by Arc but, by using around £235,000 to increase prize funds in lower-grade contests, it will unlock around £364,000 in levy funding it lost access to after cutting nearly £3 million from its executive prize-money contributions this year.

The temporary move, which was agreed by Arc in a meeting with National Trainers Federation president Ann Duffield, follows Wednesday's news that trainer Ralph Beckett has emailed more than 500 of his colleagues calling for a three-day boycott of Arc meetings next week.

Beckett had called for trainers not to make entries for meetings at Fontwell and Lingfieldon Wednesday, Southwell (pictured) on Thursday or Lingfield and Newcastle on Friday. Arc had warned of the damage a boycott could cause, notably a loss of levy income estimated at £300,000.

Following news of Arc's moves, the BHA revealed that racing industry leaders had agreed a temporary deal, after a meeting in London on Wednesday night, which will see all available levy funds unlocked by racecourses until the end of March.

They have committed to work together over the next four weeks, focusing on the media rights landscape and its impact on racing's revenues.

BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: "I'm pleased at the commitment from all to work together on this which has to be in the long-term interests of the sport.

"We know there are difficult times ahead and a common approach is the best way to respond. I believe we can achieve that over the next four weeks if we can maintain the spirit of the agreement we’re announcing today."

Welcoming the news, Racehorse Owners Association Chief Executive Charlie Liverton said: "The ROA are delighted that, following constructive discussions with the RCA and their members and the BHA, a position has been reached which sees the appearance money scheme, so valued by horsemen, continued for a further month whilst discussions are ongoing.

"British racing needs a vibrant racecourse community. Through the tripartite system, stakeholders need further time to consider the impact that the government's decision on FOBT machines will have on the media rights income the industry receives."

The original cuts came as Arc anticipates a multi-million-pound fall in income from media rights payments as a result of predictions that thousands of betting shops will close following the government's reduction in FOBT stakes to £2 from £100.

In December Arc revealed it would be cuttingits executive contributions to prize-money, consequently denying itself the opportunity to release £4.5m of levy funding for lower-grade races.

28 February 2019

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