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Behind-Closed-Doors Is Way To Race

BHA critiscised for shutdown

As South African horseracing enters another uncertain week, the Racing Post writes that the British Horseracing Authority has missed a golden opportunity to engage new audiences, safeguard the sport and explode betting turnover following the lockdown caused by the outbreak of coronavirus.

That is the view of senior industry figure Peter Savill, who has expressed dismay that racing has been sidelined as Britain deals with the pandemic.

Racing in Ireland is going ahead behind closed doors, something Savill, who owned 1994 champion juvenile Celtic Swing, believes British racing’s regulator should also have sanctioned, instead of having called a halt until the end of April.

Irish racing to continue behind closed doors after crucial Wednesday meeting

In a letter to the Racing Post, Savill, who had a six-year spell as chairman of the BHB, a precursor to the BHA, said: “If you cannot find a way to keep a small group of people apart on a racecourse built to hold tens of thousands, you cannot be trying very hard.

“Was the government consulted? Apparently not. Instead, the two reasons given for heading an industry towards bankruptcy were (a) to follow the government’s advice to avoid all non-essential travel and to ramp up social-distancing measures, and (b) concern about putting a strain on the public health service, i.e. doctors and ambulances, during a time of national emergency.

“Very noble, but what about putting a strain on the economic health of 70,000 people who work directly or indirectly in the racing industry? There are 300,000 registered doctors in the UK and no more than three or four of them are required to attend a race meeting.

“I have not heard of a single racecourse that felt it would have a problem providing the required medical staffing.”

British racing’s shutdown threatens to add to the social problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Savill, who won back to back Ascot Gold Cups with Royal Rebel and enjoyed top-level success with Rainbow Peak.

“Racing has missed a massive opportunity that was available to almost no other sport, to provide an entertainment outlet for a nation that is starved of things to do,” he wrote.

“Racing on television does not need crowd participation to create an exciting atmosphere, unlike football which, behind closed doors, looks more like a practice session than a match.

“This could have been racing’s opportunity to showcase itself to a world deprived of sport and activity, a world already bored and depressed beyond imagination. Betting turnover would have exploded, racing introduced for the first time to millions and the economic health of a major industry safeguarded and even enhanced.

“Ireland, which has introduced far more stringent regulations – and far quicker – on its citizens than the UK, came to the right decision to race behind closed doors, as long as its government’s medical advice allows it to do so. British racing’s constituents are left wondering why its rulers did not come to the same conclusion.

“The BHA made no attempt to do that and, as a result, they have let the racing industry down in a big way.”

Nick Rust

Nick Rust

On Thursday, the BHA’s chief executive Nick Rust had explained the reasons for the shutdown.

“We can work on an immediate response to the inevitable hardship that all businesses and employees will face.

“We knew that people right across our sport would be worried and anxious about the future. We are focused on working with government and racing bodies on financial proposals. We are already working on a recovery plan for when we can resume.”

In a letter published by the BHA, the co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, MPs Conor McGinn and Laurence Robertson, outlined their support of the industry during the coronavirus pandemic.

It read: “We supported the difficult but correct decision to suspend racing. It was the only reasonable course of action to take for the public good, in the national interest and to preserve the longer-term reputation and positive image of our sport.

“We are now calling on the government to recognise racing’s responsible actions by playing its role in securing the future and sustainability of our great sport, which makes such a significant financial, cultural and social contribution to our country.”

  • Racing Post

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9 comments on “Behind-Closed-Doors Is Way To Race


    I think Phumelela will fold now with very little soccer taking place.

    For horse-racing it will be a blessing.

    People are ready for a new brand of Tote. Certain feedback indicates government will welcome this with assistance rendered to bottom – of – the – log staff transition or repatriation.

  2. Horseboss says:

    @William Indeed you are correct, we are in need and will glad fully welcome a new Tote..

  3. George Spelvin says:

    Wishing for a clean slate in SA when the situation is as dire as it is now may become racing’s biggest nightmare. Those that believe Gold Circle is immune from the fall out better start thinking very carefully about their assumptions. As for the Kenilworth crowd who always think that economic rules do not apply to them, time my well show you to be the bigger fools.

    Those thinking that government assistance and intervention is the way forward clearly have not learnt the lesson in SA that such involvement entails trade offs which ultimately are unsustainable. A political appointee at the NHA who has no knowledge of horse racing and who toes a political agenda will make the current situation look very bearable.

    There are many things that people are suddenly wishing for and cheering on. I hope for their sake they have thought this through with some rigour. Be careful what you wish for.


    A big chunk of international income allows Phumelela to keep it’s doors open, well, really to survive, this thanks to international punters.


    I’m crystal clear on what I’m wishing for and what I wanted 15 years ago. Corporatization, in particular, under the structure of Phumelela must go.

    Enterprise Value to EBITDA

    Enterprise Value to Sales

    Total Debt to Enterprise Value


    Current Ratio

    Quick Ratio

    Cash Ratio


    Operating Margin

    Pretax Margin

    Net Margin

    Return on Assets

    Return on Equity

    Return on Total Capital

    Return on Invested Capital

  6. Sipjo says:

    Racing industry must stop the madness and shut down indefinitely. I’m a punter and have been for years. Racing has survived African horse sickness and many other lows, but from the ashes it has risen. You guys can’t behave like an island and think self regulation in the face of this pandemic is enough. Stop chasing the bottom line over people’s lives. Stop racing as in yesterday

  7. Michael Jacobs says:

    Racing will have to stop now as per the national lockdown. But there was nothing wrong with racing’s response and continuation, they were responsible and didn’t play with anyone’s life.

  8. Busi says:

    What about the safety of the employees..now that Human Resources say people must go to work as usual as if there’s nothing going on around SouthAfrica

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