Horseracing "The One Loser" In Proposal To Ban Bookmaker Sponsorship Of The Sport

Is horse racing playing a "game of Russian Roulette" with sponsorship of the sport by announcing that there may be a proposal to prevent bookmakers from backing races?

The sport of horseracing, led by the racecourses, announced earlier this week that there may be a proposal to prevent bookmakers from backing races unless their offshore business’s contribute more to the already ‘cash-strapped’ levy, a move which Coral yesterday described as like playing a “game of Russian Roulette” with sponsorship of the sport.

The major bookmaker celebrated the 40th year of their sponsorship of the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown this July, while their association with Chepstow’s Welsh National dates back yet another three years. The firm’s PR director Simon Clare poured scorn on the proposals, which are understood to be at an early stage in an effort to claw back some of the £25 million estimated to be lost offshore every year.

Describing racing as “the only loser” if the proposals are implemented, Clare, while awaiting a response from their major racecourse partners, said: “On first reading I find it very hard to believe racing is seriously considering pursuing such an ill-conceived and frankly reckless game of Russian roulette with the future of long-standing race sponsorships and the strong commercial relationships that currently exist betwen so many racecourses and betting sponsors, some of which, like the Coral-Eclipse and the Coral Welsh Grand National, have been built up over decades.”

“There can only be one loser in this game, and it’s racing. On the one hand, horseracing sponsorship represents a very small share of most bookmakers’ total marketing spend and there is no shortage of alternative sports sponsorship opportunities for bookies to spend their money on to promote their brands and acquire customers just as effectively. Yet on the other hand racing has never had a queue of non-bookmaker sponsors beating down their door.”

While neither confirming nor denying that discussions were taking place regarding the proposals, the BHA issued a statement saying: “The current levy leakage, with the vast majority of remote betting activity not being captured, causes real economic damage to British racing. However, we don’t comment on speculation and are happy to reinforce our long-standing position that betting firms are highly valued partners of our sport.”

With  51% of all sponsors’ contributions to prize money in 2014 coming from bookmakers racecourses may find it harder than expected to fill the void should the proposals be implemented, with many within racing already resigned to the fact that the sport could once again be on course to ‘shoot itself in the foot.’