BHA publishes 2022 fixture list but bookmakers express doubts

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has published its fixture list for the 2022 season, with plans to enhance the number of meetings taking place on both Saturdays and Sundays.

In total, the number of races taking place throughout 2022 will be 1,482, down four from the 1,486 showcased in 2021, although the number of weekend meetings will be increased, with the objective of boosting racecourse attendance, betting handles and television viewership – particularly on ITV.

The BHA is mindful of the need to drive revenues and engagement in the post-COVID era, with weekend fixtures easier for much of the general public to attend, with a sixth race added across ten Saturday and eight Sunday meetings.

However, some betting operators have expressed reservations at the decision to expand the number of weekend meetings – particularly on Saturdays – according to the Racing Post.

Ladbrokes Coral PR Director, Simon Clare, remarked: “The thing that jumps off the page is the addition of a sixth fixture on some Saturdays which isn’t what betting customers either want or need on days when the action already comes thick and fast.

“It goes without saying that those races and horses would deliver greater betting-related revenues in other positions in the programme.”

The nine added races taking place on Saturdays will occur at Chelmsford City on 14 May, 28 May and 10 September; Cartmel on 28 May and 16 July; Chester on 11 June, 16 July and 24 September and Perth on 13 August 18 June and 13 August.

Meanwhile, on Sundays, eight additional fixtures have been added throughout the year – at Hamilton on 8 May, York on 22 May, Musselburgh on 5 June, Chelmsford City on 3 July, 24 July and 14 August, Haydock Park on 7 August and Sandown Park on 21 August.

The BHA maintains that ‘there should be a reasonable expectation’ that the additional Saturday fixtures will attract crowds of around 7,500, whilst adding that racecourses’ executive contribution to prize money for these races ‘must be no less than £100,000.

Meanwhile, prize money for Sunday meetings will be funded by ‘at least’ £65,000 in executive contributions, whilst the authority expects all fixtures to relieve further funding from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB).

Despite voicing concerns at the changes to Saturday racecards, speaking to the Racing Post, both Claire and National Trainers Federation Chief Executive, Rupert Arnold, welcomed the additional funding and changes to Sunday lists. 

However, Arnold noted: “There are some Saturdays with a sixth Flat fixture and I think that could present some logistical difficulties in terms of booking jockeys because of the one meeting per day rule.”

The BHA’s decision was informed by the cross-industry Fixtures and Funding Group, having been approved by all of the group’s members and horse racing’s tripartite Executive Committee, and developed ‘in consultation with relevant stakeholders’ and subsequently presented to the BHA Board on 9 September for approval.

Additional measures include changes in Christmas fixtures, which see all meetings during this period become floodlit races in order to open new betting sessions, whilst widening the ‘geographical spread’ of races over the four day Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday and introducing evening meetings on the Thursday and Friday.

“In producing the 2022 Fixture List, our overarching aim has been to enhance the appeal of racing to its followers,” said BHA’s Chief Operating Officer, Richard Wayman, commenting on the updated fixture list.

“As ever, this has involved balancing a number of considerations such as seeking to deliver a competitive and compelling sport, whilst also supporting the revenues that encourage the acquisition and retention of owners and their horses. Also, staging fixtures at times when the public can enjoy them whilst also being mindful of the wellbeing impact on the participants who service them.

“Fixture policy is an area of tripartite decision making and, whilst there will inevitably be differences of opinion from time to time, there is complete agreement that the fixture list must continue to evolve as we listen to what racegoers, fans of the sport and the betting industry’s customers, are telling us.”

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