The British Horseracing Authority expects to unveil the 2024 fixture list in mid-September, with approximately 160 new premier cards planned.
A shake-up of the racing calendar was announced in May, with the BHA outlining its aim to grow the sport’s reach, appeal to new fans and better engage existing customers in the hope it will generate extra revenues which will in turn boost prize money levels.
Part of the changes unveiled was the introduction of premier fixtures, which will offer higher prize money and feature better horses, with a two-hour slot on a majority of Saturday afternoons limited to two of the premier cards and one other meeting for a two-year trial period. Other fixtures scheduled on those days will have to start either earlier or later.
The 2024 fixture list is nearing publication, when details of what constitutes a premier fixture will be confirmed, and Richard Wayman, the BHA’s chief operating officer, thinks the number of premier fixtures planned indicates the desire of tracks to be involved.
He said: “If every racecourse continued their 2023 behaviour into 2024, we would have had about 115 or 117 premier fixtures that would effectively meet the criteria we’ve set.
“We are looking at the moment at around 160 premier fixtures in 2024, which I think gives an indication there is significant change in those fixtures, that racecourses are changing their behaviour and wanting to be part of staging premier fixtures.”
Wayman said around 20 premier fixtures are scheduled on Sundays, which represents “a reasonable step up in quality”, while details of a pilot for six Sunday evening meetings in the early part of the year on the Flat are being finalised.
Concerns have been raised that premier fixtures would result in less funding for lower-grade racing and Wayman added: “Part of creating premier fixtures involves investing more money.
“There is a combination of measures we are looking at as to how that extra money would be generated from requests to Levy, some redistribution of money into premier, but also asking the Levy Board for additional prize money support to support the strategy. The Levy Board doesn’t meet until September so they will consider that then.
“Racecourses are looking to invest some of their own revenues into these premier fixtures and in terms of wanting to stage some of these fixtures, they will be thinking about how they distribute their own budget across the year and one would imagine there will be some redistribution from within racecourse budgets too.”
During a media conference, the BHA’s director of communications and corporate affairs Greg Swift offered an update on ongoing work concerning Levy reform, with various pieces of work having been submitted in recent months and subsequent meetings held with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as “a sustainable Levy process” is sought going forward.
Swift also outlined the BHA’s response to proposed affordability checks for gamblers, saying “sweeping blanket checks” would be “unacceptable” whilst outlining a collective approach from across the industry to respond to the Gambling Commission’s consultation process on the matter.