No surprise there then
No great surprise – 1
The Jockey Club Racecourses’ plan to demolish Kempton Park and trouser millions through housing development was always a long-shot.
A few years ago, London Irish rugby club set out plans to sell its nearby training ground, The Avenue, where it once played its First XV games, for housing development, but met with stiff local resistance.
The land was eventually sold but far fewer houses were built, not least because there no was no scope to build new access roads.
The Kempton Park scheme met with even stronger opposition, and the local Spelthorne Borough Council were never onside.
Now, the Jockey Club has gone back to the drawing board. (see http://wp.me/P8e3Dl-Mx)
Kempton’s seasoned racegoers, knowing that a scheme of the size that the Jockey Club was proposing would struggle, pointed out that dormant land over where the Jubilee start was located, alongside a main road, could accommodate a sizeable number of new homes without impinging on the track.
But even that was too much for local residents and, in all likelihood, will continue to be too much for the local authority.
Not far away, plans for housing development on the periphery of the Jockey Club’s Sandown Park have stalled due, in part, to infrastructure concerns.
Seeking planning permission for such big development schemes is a long-term play where the applicant tests the waters, with a starting position that’s unlikely to succeed, but it’s an opening gambit.
So far, the Jockey Club have been rebuffed, but they would welcome the money and will keep on trying.
If they do eventually receive approval to develop the disused land in the far corner of Kempton Park, they’ll still be looking to push the boundaries that little bit further.
No great surprise 2
After announcing last month that William Hill were not renewing their support of the Ayr Gold Cup, it was widely thought the same fate would befall the St Leger at Doncaster.
Sure enough, the final classic of the season is also in search of a new sponsor.
Hills had not long taken over sponsoring the oldest classic, replacing Ladbrokes after just three years. But why would they decide to end the arrangement so soon?
First, they’ve entered into a new streaming rights agreement with Doncaster’s owner, Arena Racing. It will not have come cheap.
It’s also worth noting that William Hill were very quick to close hundreds of betting shops after the minimum stake for FOBTs was cut from £100 to £2. Their speed in reducing the size of their retail estate gave rivals a chance to wait and see where the closures would take place.
Some competing shops, which could have closed, received a lifeline as nearby branches of Hills shut, and customers relocated to those shops which remained open.
In Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, Hills sold their entire portfolio of 30-plus shops to BoyleSports.
The past few months have seen a number of senior executives leave Hills.
What’s behind these developments? The likely answer is the US.
With gambling now legalised across the States, William Hill are concentrating their efforts in gaining a lucrative share of the North American market.
And, with greater regulation of betting in Britain a distinct possibility, the old-country is losing its appeal.
It would come as no great surprise that, if someone wanted to buy Hill’s British shops, an acceptable offer would be readily agreed.
♦The other day I popped into a Ladbrokes shop to check some results. A cartoon race was in progress after which someone in the Ladbrokes studio opined “that was a cracking winner”.
What a Shout pulling in the numbers
Fellow Racing Hub writer Kyle Merrick recently reviewed the Racing Post’s new Friday night 30-minute programme What A Shout, expressing an opinion that it was set to be a success, and hopefully it would attract a younger audience (see http://wp.me/s8e3Dl-12506)
His assessment has been proved correct, as the show, hosted by David Orton and JJ Hamblett, has stacked up over 1.3 million views after just six episodes – an average of over 216,000 per show. That can’t be far off ITV’s Opening Show audience.
The curious thing about What A Shout is the virtual absence of Racing Post branding. Indeed, there’s regular mention of the stablemate website My Racing.
It also lacks a sponsor, unlike the Post’s bet365 supported Up the Ante Cheltenham preview series. Presumably What A Shout is open to offers.
♦Credit where it’s due – the Racing Post has just unveiled its faster app and it’s true to say that top-gear speed has well and truly been achieved. It now opens pretty much instantaneously, going straight to the day’s cards – a welcome improvement.
January has been and gone and some of us are getting twitchy.
About a year ago there were reports that ITV was about to agree a new contract to continue to provide free-to-air coverage of racing. Confirmation of such an agreement wasn’t forthcoming.
Then there were suggestions that Ascot were holding out because, whilst ITV was offering more money, the Berkshire track would be getting a smaller percentage due to the make-up of rights owners’ share. That hiccup has seemingly been settled.
The latest stumbling block apparently concerns social media, and how that interacts with TV rights.
The ongoing negotiations are seemingly amicable, but time is moving on.
Racing faces many challenges but it would be calamitous if the parties failed to agree and ITV were no longer involved. A bigger setback to racing is unimaginable.
Hence the twitchiness.