The leaders of British racing have welcomed the announcement that £21 million of loan funding will be made available to the sport through the Sports Winter Survival Package. The money will be lent to the Horserace Betting Levy Board because of its role in providing central funding of industry costs of race-day regulation, equine welfare and industry training.
Leaders representing the British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association and The Horsemen’s Group have been engaging with Sport England and DCMS since the Survival Package was announced on November 19th. It is intended to help sports severely impacted by coronavirus restrictions over the winter months, notably where the absence of spectators and the revenue they provide would pose a threat to the survival of clubs or sporting teams.
The funding model for racing is different from many sports where clubs will typically receive the revenues from spectators, employ the players or participants and fund the costs of staging sporting events. Racing’s leaders asked government to allow the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) to be the recipient of loan funding, because of its role in providing central funding to support raceday and other industry costs. Work continues with the HBLB to agree how the loan funding can best be used to assist the industry with surviving and recovering from COVID 19.
No changes are expected to the HBLB’s plan for funding race-days and prize money until the end of June. But with spectators not returning to racecourses until May 17th at the earliest, and in reduced numbers at that point, the gap in revenues will continue into July and until a full return of race-goers is possible. The government has already indicated that further financial help may be available for sports affected over the summer, which British racing has also welcomed.
Racing has taken into account the need to repay any funds borrowed from the original £40 million which government set as a limit for horseracing. Whilst the terms of the loans are favourable, there is a recognition that any debts incurred will have to be paid back from future Levy income. Racing’s leaders will now work with the HBLB on a plan to repay the loans over the ten‐year period.
The BHA’s Chief Executive Julie Harrington said, “We are extremely grateful to officials at Sport England, DCMS and the Treasury for their support in agreeing this funding to racing. We are grateful also to the Horserace Betting Levy Board for agreeing to our proposal and borrowing this money to support the central funding of racing. This money will help ensure racing continues behind closed doors despite the absence of spectator revenues. This will benefit our racecourses, our participants and their communities, and the vital role racing plays as an employer and contributor to the rural economy.”
David Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association, went on to add, “The RCA and its Members are very grateful to the HBLB, DCMS and Sport England for putting in place this vital funding for the sport. Racecourses have suffered lost turnover of over £325m since the pandemic began and this funding will provide a crucial bridge for both Racecourses and Horsemen as we begin the long road to recovery.”
Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the Racecourse Owners Association, said “Our thanks go to the officials at Sport England, DCMS and the Treasury for their help and support in providing this loan to British Racing. In particular, the team at Sport England for their time and advice during the process. The HBLB will be the recipients of the loan and we look forward to working with them to understand how the loan can be best utilized going forward. The Government’s Sports Winter Package has provided financial support to many sports industries over the past few months and this support to British Racing is very welcome.”