The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has published its fixture list for the 2022 season, which increases the number of weekend meetings in plans to boost racecourse attendance, betting handles and television viewership.
Keeping in mind the need to drive revenues and engagement in the post-COVID era, with weekend fixtures easier for much of the general public to attend, the BHA has made the decision to add a sixth race across ten Saturday and eight Sunday meetings throuhgout the season.
Richard Wayman, BHA’s Chief Operating Officer, commented: “In producing the 2022 Fixture List, our overarching aim has been to enhance the appeal of racing to its followers.
“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.”
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.
Wayman added: “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.”
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, 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.
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).
However, some BHA associates have voiced their concerns for the new changes, as reported by the Racing Post. Rupert Arnold, National Trainers Federation Chief Executive, commented: “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.”
Furthermore, 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.
Additional changes in Christmas fixtures will see all meetings in 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.
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 therefore presented for approval to the BHA Board on 9 September.