Some achievement to arrive at an £80m levy
Mike Deasy on the achievement that is an £80m levy yield, a hole in Chester’s sponsorship portfolio, I was an Ascot fashion victim and the 2021 Derby Walk
When you consider that the levy yield for 2019/20 was £98m, to achieve the projected yield for 2020/21 of £80m is some achievement.
A month or so went by without any racing taking place which included the loss of the Grand National, the Chester May meeting and Newbury’s Group 1 Lockinge fixture, the only Group 1 to be lost to Covid.
Betting shops were either shut or operating under restrictions and racecourses weren’t able to accommodate spectators, considerably denting their revenues, and bets usually placed on course did not necessarily transfer to off-course operators.
That a yield of £80m is forecast reflects herculean efforts to keep the show on the road, albeit without racegoers being present except for a handful of opportunities including the test at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting which was cruelly curtailed by local officialdom.
BHA Executive Director Will Lambe (pictured) couldn’t have put it better:
“It’s a credit to the commitment and passion of all our participants and to the great stories that racing generates through our jockeys, trainers, owners and the staff who look after our horses.
“We thank all the media who have brought these stories to the British public over the last 12 months, including our racing channels and ITV sport.
“We thank the Horserace Betting Levy Board for the work it has done over the past year to support racing through this crisis, increasing its expenditure so that prize money levels could be maintained wherever possible, and providing additional funding to racecourses.
“We also thank our colleagues in the betting industry who do so much to promote racing to their customers.
“These results demonstrate the potential for growing the public’s engagement in racing, the benefits this can bring to the tens of thousands of people employed in both our industries and to the country as whole, especially in rural economies.
“As British racing battles to recover from the financial impact of COVID, this is an encouraging moment as we strive to achieve better funding for our world-class industry, including a fair and sustainable Levy.”
Projected income from the levy for the last financial year of around £80m is set to give the Levy Board flexibility in its options to support racing’s recovery plan in the coming months.
If herculean efforts have got us to this point, it’s going to take the wisdom of Solomon to get the money spent without tribal warfare breaking out. What odds?
Chester’s sponsorship hole
Chester’s May meeting missed being allowed to have spectators by a fortnight and Newbury will miss out on racegoers for the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes by a couple of days.
Chester also appeared to have missed out on race sponsorships. It helped that Chester have welcomed back the tote as the on-course pool operator replacing the much-derided Chester Bet which offered fixed-odds betting that wasn’t always of the best value.
The tote sponsored seven races across the three days but a noticeable hole in the sponsorship portfolio was the feature race on day one – the Chester Vase. Two years ago, the Chester-based credit card company, MBNA, supported the race but this year it was run without sponsor support.
It will be interesting to see if next year, when crowds should be back, MBNA also return or if a replacement can to be found.
Meanwhile, online car retailer Cazoo has gone for a hat-trick of classic races with the news that it’s backing the St Leger at Doncaster, an announcement made only a few days after it was confirmed that Cazoo would be the headline sponsor of the Derby meeting.
The past few years have seen the Leger sponsored by Ladbrokes and then William Hill and, whilst there is nothing wrong with bookmakers sponsoring such a high-profile race, Arena Racecourses will be pleased that they, like the Jockey Club, have got the support of a major online brand.
Other tracks will be hoping that more online enterprises see the merit of race sponsorship.
I was an Ascot fashion victim
It’s still not clear how many spectators will be able to attend Royal Ascot this year, anything from 4,000 to 10,000, but that won’t stop many from checking the style guide to see if any of the rules have changed in anticipation of being able to go.
For the men it’s quite straightforward. In the Royal Enclosure it’s black or grey morning suit, waistcoat, tie (no cravats or bow ties), black top hat, black shoes and socks (a sign of the times that the latter has to be stipulated).
For the ladies, there are many more rules to observe. They concern jump suits, trouser suits, covering the shoulders and the need for a tape measure to check that a hat (not fascinators) has a hard base of four inches, that straps are at least an inch wide and hemlines fall at the knee or lower.
But one measurement which escapes scrutiny but which if imposed would benefit many – restricting the height of ladies’ hats and the extent of protuberances from the millinery concoctions.
And this where I became an Ascot fashion victim. Arriving at Ascot and hoping not to be in the background of media photographs, conscious of a midriff show of white shirt between top of trousers and bottom of waistcoat, I hurried in.
That’s when a lady turned around and her hat’s rigid extension collided with my topper. My hat was dislodged and her extension was bent.
I thought that, given her total lack of spacial awareness, the scowl she gave me as I picked up my slightly dented top hat was uncalled for.
So, I’d like another measurement introduced for Ascot headgear, limiting the height of hats and the length of extensions. Anyone who has stood behind a hat that looks capable of picking up RacingTV will know that it’s going to obstruct the view of the racing.
Join the Derby Walk
Many years ago thousands of people made it their annual pilgrimage to travel to Epsom Downs for Derby Day. The journey which would have been planned weeks in advance has crossed the minds of many who now embark on a much simpler journey to the Derby.
The intrigue of the exhaustive journey of visitors in the 1700s sparked the beginning of the Derby Walk commencing two weeks before the Derby and raising money for charities. This year’s walk on Sunday 23 May, marks the 11th anniversary.
Join the 22-mile journey, starting at 9am in Knightsbridge, through to Elephant and Castle, traveling via the A24 through Clapham, Colliers Wood, Merton and on to Morden which will then lead the walk via Rose Hill and on to the Epsom Downs.
For more information visit https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/epsom/events-tickets/derby-walk/