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Legal Status of Racecourses v HRA

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  • #5036
    • Total Posts 185


    Are you able to shed light on the legal rights of racecourses in the Racing setup? (or direct me to a website which shines light on this). I note in the debate on Prize Money that several trainers are complaining that Racing is in the hands of Bookmakers and racecourses and that several racecourses are not adding any money to the prize money fund above their Board Receipts and Owners entry fees. Furthermore many people are calling for the number of fixtures to be reduced raising the prize money to those races that remain.

    Are the HRA able to do anything about this? In the ridiculous extreme , for instance, are the HRA able to withdraw licences from jockeys, owners and trainers who patronise racecourses who are not contributing to the prize money fund( ie as with flapping tracks). I know the HRA have rights of course inspection etc but the situation confuses me as to what strictures the HRA can take, if any, against racecourses who put on fixtures without contributing to the prize money fund. I also do not understand who controls the fixture list so that the trainers long held complaint that certain types of races come along in bunches like London Buses and then they are unable to find a similar race for weeks..

    In short I have been in racing for 40 years and have no clue as to the legal relationship between the successors of the jockey club and the racecourses.

    • Total Posts 897


    Legals, if any to Wit.

    Guaranteed Minimum prize moneys are governed by HRA Rules Of Racing, Chapter 19

    BHB set the fixture list in accordance with the "Modernisation of British Racing" report, required by the OFT investigation.

    Onen hag oll (if you are a fellow Cornish)

    • Total Posts 2155


    An urgent comprehensive review of the fixture list was initiated by the BHA in May 2007 through an Issues paper inviting contributions from all elements of racing: … May_07.pdf

    The timetable envisages a new Fixtures policy settled and announced by March 2008 – see Project Scope top of the list here: … .5.5.1.asp

    (The Economic Impact study from Deloitte halfway down that list is interesting too).

    The legal position of a racecourse is that it is a commercial enterprise. It can run races completely without contact with the BHA or the Levy Board, if it wishes.

    A course has no legal right to require the BHA to allocate fixtures to it. You may recall the episode some 25 – 30 years ago when Ron Muddle sought unsuccessfully to claim fixtures for his envisaged new course at Telford.

    If a course though is looking to offer betting to patrons, there is an advantage to it seeking "approved racecourse" status from the Levy Board, since then on days when the course is used solely for horse racing the statutory restrictions on bookmaking at racecourses and the use of any premises for betting do not apply.

    Being approved as a racecourse by the HBLB though is a separate issue from receiving Levy grants.

    A racecourse has no legal right to require prize money contributions from the Levy Board (even if quite separately it has been certified an approved racecourse as above). Prize money distribution is wholly under the control of the Levy Board and its distribution policies.

    The Levy Board could impose conditions on its grants if it wished – eg that Levy contribution to prize money for a race must be no greater a proportion than 50 per cent of total prize money on that race.

    The BHA also could make it a condition of holding fixtures under its rules (and thereby permitting participation by horses and jockeys licensed by it at the course) that prize money be funded 50 per cent by the course.

    In each case legally the course could not object to such a condition since – absent arbitrary or capricious or discriminatory behaviour against a particular course – there is nothing legally to stop Levy Board or BHA generally setting out "take it or leave it" terms.

    In both cases it is a matter of contract with the racecourse and, if accepted by the course, the Levy Board / BHA would have the normal contractual right to insist on performance.

    As with any other private landowners licensing individuals to enter its premises, a racecourse can impose conditions on who can do what there. That is the basis on which racecourses can control those seeking to relay audio or pictures from those premises.

    To your general comment that racing is in the hands of bookmakers and racecourses, strictly that is nothing new if one recalls that the levy only came into being originally to compensate racecourses against the impact on them of the legalisation of off-course betting.

    While you may have been in racing 40 years, that still makes you (and, I hasten to add, probably most of us on this forum) a child of the levy, now into its 46th annual scheme:

    For sure a lot of post-1961-voiced constituencies have come to depend on the levy in various ways over those 46 years.

    How many of the "stakeholder" organisations and individuals being canvassed now by the BHA over the fixture list remember just how racing’s finances worked before 1961?

    Maybe that’s not relevant. A lot of controversial points can be made. Maybe the bookies have paid their dues to racing for being allowed to do off-course betting in general. Maybe bookies don’t need off-course horseracing anymore – those not buying TurfTV seem to be saying that. Maybe there ought to be a Tote/ exchange monopoly for betting on horses.

    On the other hand maybe it isn’t racecourses who are the best mechanism for funding the multiple constituencies which today comprise "racing". Of the three big owners of racecourses, two have gone with the doubtless charming but low-quality horses featured on ATR, and one of those has just passed from a racing enthusiast to a couple of property developers, while the other has on its website for shareholders lots of maps of "surplus land" adjoining the track proper. But then, where would the races take place – just on Jockey Club Estates and other RUK-standard courses ?

    Ultimately the BHA is the latest incarnation of an attempted third player between courses and bookies, and would still like to find a way to take on the HBLB function of collecting and distributing funds for "racing".

    Problem for the BHA remains that it still has to parlay itself into a position without any compelling supporting legal and commercial leverage at the moment.

    Savill made a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get that leverage. Now everybody (not least the government) is looking for a man with a plan that actually works.

    best regards


    • Total Posts 185

    Thank you both for your replies which I shall attempt to digest and ruminate on.

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