An immediate £22 million package to support British racing during the coronavirus outbreak has been agreed between the Horserace Betting Levy Board and the Racing Foundation.
With racing on hold indefinitely, the organisations, in conjunction with parties within British racing, have worked with the objective of “providing timely funds where they are most needed, whilst also ensuring the contributions are made in an accountable and sustainable manner which is in line with the objectives of both organisations”.
The HBLB’s contribution focuses on racecourses, with the Racing Foundation – the racing charity which holds the proceeds from the sale of the Tote in 2011 – centring on hardship issues faced by racing’s participants, both human and equine.
Both bodies will contribute to a loan fund for racecourses, with a £13.5m cash sum available to tracks and up to £8m for the sport’s participants.
Paul Darling, chairman of HBLB, said: “This is a substantial undertaking by the Levy Board in conjunction with the Racing Foundation.
“The board has agreed to make available significant sums to racecourses through a combination of measures that will meet the demand for cash in the short-term.
“Importantly, this approach preserves further levy funds that we know will be needed for prize money when racing resumes.
“It is certain that the Levy Board will have a major role at that stage and beyond.
“Negotiating the many challenges ahead of us all will require exceptional co-operation between every sector. Those challenges can only be met if British racing and the betting industry work in partnership and the Levy Board will play a full and active part in ensuring that this happens.”
Ian Barlow, chairman of the Racing Foundation, added: “The trustees of the foundation agreed that during this exceptional time the organisation should not be bound by its normal endowment rules and be prepared to bring forward future years’ expenditure, while utilising some of its capital, to support the emerging needs of the sport.
“The funding requests we have received are varied and we want to take an approach which can help alleviate the immediate hardship being felt by the sport’s people, horses, businesses and charities.
“Through close and continued collaboration both organisations will seek to meet the immediate hardship needs presented to us and ensure necessary funds are in place to commence racing and support the sport in the months ahead.”
Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, spoke of “an incredibly tough battle” in dealing with the collapse in income for all aspects of the sport.
Racing last took place in Britain on March 17, behind closed doors at Wetherby and Taunton, and was initially suspended until the end of April before that was extended. Plans are in place for a phased resumption on the Flat, with discussions continuing to take place.
Rust said: “This package of self-help funding offers some initial relief to the hard-working people, horses and businesses on whom racing relies. We know this does not solve the acute problems the industry is facing but it will provide much needed short-term assistance.
“We have an incredibly tough battle on our hands with an unprecedented collapse in income. More support will be needed and the most important way to achieve this will be through a safe resumption of racing when conditions allow.
“We have communicated this to Government and are working hard with the other major sports to bring this about. We will be ready to resume racing and our plans are progressing with urgency.”
Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the National Trainers Federation, echoed the views of Rust on the importance of returning to racing.
He said: “Racing provides a livelihood to jockeys, trainers and stable staff, and horse welfare is best protected through the care that they receive in trainers’ yards.
“We are all appreciative of the safety net that the HBLB and Racing Foundation has constructed with the package of loans to help immediate cash flow and grants for emergency hardship and safeguarding horses.
“Most importantly, we need to resume racing as soon as possible because that is what drives revenue and owners’ investment, which sustains us all.”