The process for compiling the 2016 Fixture List has now entered the period in which BHA Fixtures are allocated. British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Chief Executive Nick Rust provides an update regarding the process, some of the overall objectives and likely outcomes:
Nick Rust said:
“Developing a Fixture List which pleases all parties is one of the biggest challenges we face as an organisation and as an industry each year. The Fixture List must, in meeting the agreed sporting objectives, be produced in the best interests of the sport. In doing so it must, amongst other things, strike the right balance between the ability of the horse population to deliver competitive, compelling racing, and the needs and desires of the racecourses, with the aim of making British Racing as successful as possible.
“However, the 200 or so BHA Fixtures – which are the element of the Fixture List over which BHA has the ability to independently flex the number and position of to meet the overall needs of British Racing – only accounted for around 13% of the Fixture List in 2015. This limits the scope for wholesale change. As such the 2016 Fixture List is being compiled in a manner designed to optimise what we have, where we can, rather than being subject to fundamental alterations.
“In the longer term, however, there are things we would like to do differently. Our sport needs to grow spectator numbers, betting turnover and racehorse ownership – all three of which are part of the Strategy for Growth – and the Fixture List has a key role in this.
“This only becomes possible, however, when two things are achieved. Firstly our sport needs to achieve consensus as to how it is governed, which will hopefully be reflected in the signing of the Members Agreement. Secondly our sport needs clarity on its funding situation, and to this end we welcome the Government’s recent repeated commitment to delivering a Horserace Betting Right.
“This year we are prioritising the resolution of many of the geographical clashes that permeate the current List, which will be advantageous in terms of racecourse attendances and field sizes. We don’t hold all the cards here but we are working with the racecourses and have already had some successes on this front. We also want to bolster the quality of midweek and Sunday racing.
“We are on track to deliver a Fixture List on schedule, and we are hopeful that the developments to the 2016 Fixture List will make it work better for all our customers, by whom we mean horsemen, racecourses and the racing and betting public.”
The BHA Fixtures are allocated across three pools – Jump, Flat and Floodlit – using a proportional model whereby both racecourses’ proposed prize money contribution and their ‘sporting performance’ (measured by field sizes, number of small field races and betting performance) are considered. This system was developed for the 2015 Fixture Allocation Process, in extensive consultation with stakeholders.
In the first year of the Fixture Allocation Process the weighting was 85:15 in favour of prize-money versus sporting performance, however, as planned, this has been altered to 60:40 for the 2016 Process. A further alteration to the Process for 2016 is that the pool of floodlit fixtures will now also be allocated using this proportional model, rather than in previous years when they have simply been divided equally amongst the floodlit courses.
Nick Rust added:
“We currently anticipate that the size and composition of the Fixture List will be broadly similar to that of 2015, though there are some funding challenges to be overcome if we are to deliver this.
“The pool of BHA Fixtures remains almost identical to 2015 which means that there is unlikely to be significant change to the proportion of fixtures allocated to the Jump, Flat and All Weather codes. However, with the new entrant to the All Weather landscape in the form of Newcastle racecourse it is inevitable that there will be a slight rise in the number of All Weather fixtures, not least because as a minimum Newcastle’s 17 Flat Turf fixtures are being converted to the All Weather as part of this process.
“Centre of mind for us at all times is the ongoing issue with regards to field sizes. It is essential for the future health of the industry that we deliver more competitive racing and increase the proportion of races with eight or more runners. To this end, whatever happens with the overall size of the Fixture List we will be looking closely at the race programme and determining what steps we can take to achieve our objectives.
“In 2015 we removed around 130 races from the size of the programme at certain ‘pinch-points’ and the data from this suggested that this initiative did help field sizes in this period. The management of field sizes in this manner is something that we will be replicating – and likely expanding – in 2016.”
The Fixture Allocation Process is due to be completed in the coming weeks with the Fixture List itself on course to be published in September.