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The Weekly Blog

In the Interest of Transparency

You can’t win them all.

While last week’s blog, about a potential new Starbucks in Kelso, hit the mark with some readers, perhaps it’s not surprising that others were less impressed. Among them was Jan Scott who left a message to huff, “What a load of rubbish! Nothing about racing at Kelso.”

I know that Jan was huffing, because she used the huff-emoji – the one that looks like someone sneezing badly (Jan, please accept my apologies if the blog actually had this effect on you).

This week’s blog is therefore all about racing. If you’ve clicked through in the hope of finding the usual stream of random consciousness, with the occasional joke thrown in, you’re going to be disappointed and can stop reading now…

It’s important to be transparent about this, because transparency has recently become a buzzword in racing circles – particularly since BHA Chief Executive, Julie Harrington, gave a speech saying that transparency on how money flows through the sport “needs to be addressed”. To many participants in the sport, Julie’s comment can be specifically narrowed to two questions: How much revenue do racecourses derive from the sale of media rights? And what proportion do they put into prize money?

But, as Martin Cruddace, the Chief Executive of Arena Racing Company, replied in today’s Racing Post “This fixation on one income line is financially illiterate”. For some racecourses, particularly all-weather tracks, media revenue represents the vast majority of a racecourse’s income; for others, with huge festival crowds, media revenue is a small proportion of a much larger pot. The real issue here is a lack of trust: some of the sport’s more vocal participants would like to believe that there’s much more money available for prize funds than there actually is, which leads to the suspicion that someone is having it away.

Transparency

So, in the interest of transparency, let’s say that we’re looking forward to the year ahead at Kelso. The BHA’s Industry Strategy kicked in on 1st January, introducing a two-tier funding mechanism for prize money. Kelso Racecourse will stage three Premier Fixtures during the next twelve months, each of which will benefit from significant increases in prize money as a result of an increase in Levy Funding and (hopefully) a higher media profile.

However, Kelso’s remaining eleven fixtures will each receive a reduced level of funding from the Levy Board. For example, if the racecourse had made the same contribution, as in 2023, to the prize fund for Sunday’s £15,000 Chairman’s Cup (in which this week’s selection is Jet Legs), the race would have been worth only £14,297. We therefore felt obliged to top it up. And while Kelso can’t commit to doing this for every race in the calendar, we’re still budgeting to increase our contribution to prize money to about £750,000, which equates to something like fifteen thousand times more than we earn from ice-cream sales, or a little over 40% of our media revenue.

At the end of the year, we hope to make a small profit at the racecourse: enough to contribute towards the future development of facilities. For full transparency, this would be a lot better than the 2023 blog-tips – which yielded a loss of £15.75, assuming a £1 stake on each. You can’t win them all.

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