One deal completed with more to follow
Following discussions between the ROA and the TBA regarding the future of Owner Breeder magazine, I would like to start this month’s column with the exciting news that the Racehorse Owners Association has completed the purchase of the TBA’s 50% share in the business. This means that the ROA now owns the magazine outright.
Owner Breeder remains a core benefit of ROA membership and we know how much it means to so many people. The magazine has been a key platform for our sport for many years and we intend to continue to promote our industry and explore all the issues faced by owners, breeders and the other participants that make up our industry. Owner Breeder is where,
I believe, ideas, opinions and news that matters to participants’ lives can be addressed, discussed and brought under a sharper spotlight, more so than the daily running news feeds. Under the ROA’s stewardship we have secured the magazine’s future. We are committed to the magazine and its readers, delivering newsworthy stories from across the sport for owners, breeders and others in racing. We plan to inject new momentum and growth into this much-loved and historic publication in its next chapter.
With most of the restrictions being lifted on July 19, allowing owners and spectators back on course and many racecourses to operate at capacity, racing’s recovery is in full flow. As everyone gets back on track, I hope we can now start to build up the prize-money on offer to pre-Covid levels and, indeed, increase it further. That means both growing the total revenue of the sport and the amount that finds its way to owners and participants.
There is some good news already. The levy has performed well, there will be an additional boost from the government’s Sports Winter Package Fund, and there is £200,000 extra in the ITV Racing-televised Sky Bet Sunday Series fixtures. ARC has also added an additional £500,000 to its programme targeted at lower grade races, which is also very welcome.
So, too, is the Levy Board continuing to support prize-money levels with a further £28.1 million for the September to December programme. That is on top of its funding contributions in 2021 already 32% above the normal level.
I am delighted that these packages are being used to support the owners that keep the industry moving through their committed and consistent investment. It is good to see progress in this area and hopefully a general appreciation of prizemoney’s importance to the future of racing in the UK.
Improving prize-money in Britain is a top priority for owners and the ROA. That is why we are keen to keep pushing for a more sustainable model, one that properly supports the aim of retaining and attracting owners to help grow our sport.
In making these top-up contributions you can see there is a general admission that prize-money is vital to the health of our sport. But the contributions hint at a deeper systemic problem: the Levy Board is having to fork out more than ever to bolster purses, executive contributions from racecourses have fallen, while there are no agreed mechanisms that guarantee an increase for participants, even in the face of growing betting revenues.
I remain frustrated that, despite our best efforts, we have not had agreed distribution mechanisms in place for a number of years. We are in the hands of the racecourses as to when and where they make these contributions. Whilst they obviously understand the link between a competitive racing product, prizemoney and the impact it has on their media rights payments, it is an uncomfortable position for all participants to not have the protection of signed and sealed agreements.
Plainly, the system is not working for all the sport’s participants. It remains my core focus to deliver real change in this area.
Racing is, at its core, an entertainment industry. There are many new opportunities to grow our sport and the revenues that flow into it. As owners we all recognise that we need other stakeholders to help deliver these opportunities and that they must be looked after and compensated appropriately. If we can do that, experiment with innovations, secure distribution agreements, and address other revenue drivers like levy reform, then we really can maintain British racing as the most enjoyable, dramatic and exciting sport in the world.