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ROA backs the grassroots

President and Vice-presidentThe President of the Racehorse Owners Association has given his backing to a major initiative to support the grassroots of horse racing.

Nicholas Cooper (pictured with Vice President Alan Pickering) told his association’s Annual General Meeting in London that the decline in the number of people who owned horses had to be reversed for the future health of the sport.

It comes as racing celebrates what the ROA President called “the best thing that’s happened in racing politics for more than half a century” – the Government’s decision over a new funding regime for the sport with a new ten per cent levy on the profits of bookmakers and the closing of “the infamous off-shore loophole which has been exploited by many, though thankfully not all, members of the betting industry”.

Moving forward, Nicholas Cooper said he believed that the grassroots plan, to be launched next year by the new Racing Authority with an appearance money scheme and prize-money down to eighth place in middle and lower ranking races, would not only assist everyday owners and the numerous trainers, jockeys and stable staff who mainly operate on the domestic level of racing, but it would also help bookmakers and racecourses.

Nicholas Cooper said: “Bookmakers need an increase in the number of races of eight runners or more to boost each-way betting and the general competitiveness of races. Racecourses need the same to maximise their income from media rights, which next year is forecast to reach £120 million. We cannot escape the fact, therefore, that what is good for racecourses and good for bookmakers in terms of horse racing is also good for owners and horsemen.”

He also called on the sport to develop a new relationship with bookmakers for mutual benefit.

The ROA President said: “With the imminent demise of the Levy Board, it is very important to establish betting industry representation within racing. We must learn from them as they must learn from us. We must never forget that our sport’s very survival is dependent on betting and establishing strong lines of communication that should allow us to increase racing’s betting turnover.

“While it may be many years before we see the demise of the high street betting shop, betting on horseracing, like so much in life, is gradually moving from the high street to the computer. Increasingly, we see online betting inclining towards low margin, high turnover business. With racing’s income dependent on gross profits, and therefore betting industry margins, we have to seek advice from our bookmaker friends as to how we can grow turnover to offset this decline in margins.”

Nicholas Cooper also backed the efforts of racecourses to launch a pool betting operation when Betfred’s exclusive pool betting licence expires next year.

He said: “A racecourse consortium, albeit one without Ascot, Chester, Bangor and Chelmsford, is probably the most expedient way the racing industry can achieve its long-term goal of gaining proprietorial rights over a large section of the pool betting market, while delivering the all-important liquidity.

“As we have seen with the enormous sums of money racecourses are now getting from the sale of media rights, the sensible approach for owners and horsemen is to ensure there are always binding prize-money agreements with the racecourses so we are assured of a fair share of whatever money they receive.

“With the staggering growth of digital technology, there is now the perfect environment to establish a meaningful tote operation in the country, though, ultimately, it will be British punters, with their fixed-odds mentality, who will have the final say. And it will be those same British punters, whose understanding and love of horse racing as the perfect betting medium, whose support we must continue to garner as the racing industry approaches its brave new world. A new world of unity, government support and a far better deal for owners and horsemen.”

4 July 2017

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