Hopes that racing would continue at Hereford beyond the announced closure date of December this year rose yesterday. Herefordshire County Council issued a statement setting out their intention to find a solution and putting the ball firmly back in the court of Arena/Northern Racing by addressing their concerns over the length of the lease on the track.
The statement read, “In response to the surprising and un-announced decision of Northern Racing to cease operating Hereford Racecourse at the end of the year we call upon Northern Racing to come to the table with the Council’s representatives and help us find a solution. They must take their responsibilities to Herefordshire and to racing seriously. If Northern Racing are unable or unwilling to operate the course we and our groups will jointly seek an alternative operator to continue racing at the course.”
The Council and Northern Racing have arranged a meeting on 7 September to discuss the current lease, with the Council ready to put forward the offer of a 125-year lease on the site, and to discuss further development with a hotel and conference centre an option to make the course more viable.
It appears that Northern Racing, which has only run Hereford since 2006, are tied into their present lease until the end of next year, although of course that doesn’t mean they have to operate it throughout that time.
Peter Scudamore, who used to be a director at the course before the takeover, suggested that it was changes Northern Racing had introduced that had made the track unprofitable. He told the Racing Post, “It wasn’t massively profitable but is worked perfectly well. When Northern Racing took over the lease they pushed Hereford’s Bank Holiday fixtures to other tracks within the group, causing Hereford to go downhill. Given the right race meetings and the right people I’m sure it could be run profitably once more.”
It’s good to see the local authority taking such a positive stance over the future of Hereford racecourse, and we should all welcome their absolute commitment that the land won’t be sold off for housing development. There’s no doubt that if the track does close, Northern Racing will be seen as the villains.