track cash dispute takes another turn with Newbury trade

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With plots involving huge sums of money, deep-seated suspicions and barely concealed antipathy, the ongoing dispute in the motorsport world over how much tracks are making from media rights payments (and, by extension, how much they are returning in awards) has many of the elements of a Netflix pot, and last week, one of the main players added some punchy dialogue to match.

In an interview with Racing Post industry editor Bill Barber, Martin Cruddace, chief executive of Arena Racing Company (Arc), offered a blunt response to those, including Julie Harrington, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, have called for more “transparency” over Arc’s media rights income, particularly from online betting.

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“It’s very difficult to argue with people who leave rational thinking at the door and aren’t willing to change their point of view no matter what you say, and I won’t engage with those people,” Cruddace said.

“We organized 586 matches and all but 100 suffered substantial losses without media rights, so that’s our business model. This fixation on a single line of income is economically illiterate. What I will never allow is a coach or an owner to tell this company how it should be run and what it should spend money on.”

The interview was published two days after Nevin Truesdale, chief executive of the Jockey Club, pledged to provide at least some “greater transparency” about his tracks’ finances than Thoroughbred Group (TG), which represents owners, trainers, riders and stable staff – it is something that has been demanded for a long time. It seems very unlikely that Cruddace will do the same and that, in turn, will probably only fuel the TG’s belief that there is something he is eager to hide.

Cruddace and Truesdale are the public faces of the two main groups selling the racecourse’s journalistic rights. Arc’s 16 tracks, along with four smaller independents, pool their rights through The Racing Partnership (TRP), while the Jockey Club’s subsidiary, Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR), which includes Cheltenham, Aintree, Epsom and Newmarket , is a member of Racecourse Media. Group (RMG), along with some of the biggest independents including Goodwood and York.

Both TRP and RMG have reached media rights deals with large off-course betting operators based on payment of a fixed percentage of turnover – rather than profits, as is the case with payouts. Levy– of their careers. However, as things stand, the exact percentage involved is a closely guarded secret, and everyone privy to the information will have signed a contract obligating them to keep it that way.

But that, of course, only fuels speculation and rumours, and one persistent suggestion – as has been mentioned in this column in the past – is that Cruddace has secured a significantly larger share of online billing for TRP tracks than those with RMG. In fact, more than double, according to some sources.

If this is indeed the case and it becomes public knowledge, it would raise some difficult questions for both sides. Cruddace and Arc would come under renewed pressure to justify the current levels of prize money at their tracks, while the RMG team could be accused of woefully underestimating some of the sport’s biggest events, including the Grand National and Festival of Cheltenham.

Of course, one could also argue that Cruddace is simply doing his job and ensuring the best possible return on investment for his shareholders. If his business sense and instincts have led him to a much better deal than his counterparts at JCR, then in a dog-eat-capitalist world, you have to play fair with him and his comments about telling owners and trainers where to go if they want to interfere in Arc’s business are still standing.

Constitution Hill, the reigning unbeaten hurdles champion, will miss his intended target at Cheltenham on January 27 after posting an unsatisfactory overtake and is now likely to defend his title at the Cheltenham Festival meeting in March without another race, after his successful seasonal debut in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last month.

Nicky Henderson, Constitution Hill’s trainer, said in a statement on Monday that it had been “reluctantly decided” that the seven-year-old would miss the international hurdles race as “a routine last week was not entirely satisfactory and A follow-up this morning shows that the problem has not been resolved.”

Henderson added: “He will continue with light exercise, will be re-examined in a fortnight and will then begin his preparation for March. so much miguel [Buckley, Constitution Hill’s owner] “I was really hoping to get a better result this morning so I could race on Saturday week, but for the horse’s sake and everyone’s sake, it would be foolish to do so and this doesn’t affect any future plans.”

But it’s also an argument I’d probably rather leave for another day (or, ideally, a different decade). However, it’s unclear whether that will be a sustainable tactic, especially as a result of Newbury’s decision to jump from RMG to TRP since earlier this year.

Weather permitting, Wednesday’s meeting at the Berkshire track will mark its debut on Sky Sports Racing, which broadcasts the action from TRP tracks, and the track announced on Monday that its 2024 prize money will rise to a record £7 million, which is “a comparable increase of 13% compared to 2023.”

Meanwhile, the 2023 figure is up 16% on 2022, as a result of the expected rise in media rights revenue from this year, with Newbury confirming on Monday that “the increase in prize money has occurred “As a direct result of the increase in media revenue, Newbury anticipates gaining from the move to Sky.”

plumpton 12.45 Fakir 1.15 Doc McCoy 1.50 Copshill Lad 2.25 Trincomalee 3.00 Tregele 3.35 Sanitiser 4.05 Ferrybridge

Chepstow 12.55 Easy to follow 1.30 Ballycamus 2.05 Cooleenymore 2.35 Lowry’s Bar 3.10 Broughshane 3.45 Livin On Luco 4.15 Call Me Arthur

Wolverhampton 1.25 Beauzon 2.00 Alghazaal 2.30 Happy Dancer 3.05 Laura’s Breeze (nb) 3.40 Inexplicable 4.10 Kemerton

Newcastle 3.55 Belle Of Annandale 4.25 Marcello Si 5.00 Hale End (nap) 5.30 Better 6.00 Tournelle 6.30 Our Absent Friends 7.00 The Caltonian 7.30 Urban Dandy

Of great use to those seeking greater transparency into income streams, Newbury is an independent channel that publishes its accounts in considerable detail each year. Full 2024 accounts will arrive in May 2025, but its interim results are typically published in September, when it should be possible to get a much better idea of ​​exactly how much of a boost its media rights revenue has received and whether the rumored disparity between the respective slices of the turnover pie of two groups is, in fact, the case.

Cruddace’s fights over media rights revenue are neither more nor less than one would expect from one of sport’s brightest and most astute operators. However, it remains to be seen whether this is a line that can be maintained forever.

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