The group is to be chaired by British Horseracing Authority (BHA) independent director Joe Saumarez-Smith. It will meet for the first time this week, to assess all the options for Levy reform in light of the impact of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the expected economic downturn.
Saumarez-Smith said: “There have already been extensive discussions recently about the various options for reforming the Levy.
“The Levy steering group has the full support of the representative bodies in racing and will now draw on the expertise of stakeholders across the industry, who will work with me and the BHA executive team to try and reach a united view of the industry on this crucial area of funding of the sport.”
The steering group will also carry out a rapid assessment of Levy options as the government considers how best to help sports threatened by a further six months without spectators. The group will work closely with the BHA’s public affairs team, which led and coordinated the effort to extend the Levy to offshore betting.
The steering group will also include representatives from both racecourses and horsemen, including acting Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale and Arena Racing Company CEO Martin Cruddace, and Charlie Parker and Philip Freedman, present and past chairs of The Horsemen’s Group. Will Lambe and Richard Wayman will be the BHA executive’s representatives.
“I am pleased that industry leaders have agreed on a united approach to government and the support this has had from trainers, breeders and racecourse groups,” BHA chair Annamarie Phelps said. “Now more than ever, racing needs to talk with one voice to government.
“Both I and other BHA board colleagues have been having constructive conversations with industry colleagues over the past few weeks. As a governing body, it is vital we listen to the views of those whose livelihoods are dependent on a prosperous and sustainable industry.”
The need for Levy reform was included in the BHA’s Racing Recovery Plan, which was published in August and laid out how the sport intends to work towards the resumption of full racing activity in front of spectators. In early September, the UK pilot events that allowed small numbers of fans to attend racing and other sporting fixtures was abandoned.
Phelps added: “The Prime Minister promised that the Chancellor would prepare a package of support for sport.
“We have sent government at their request a new assessment of the impact of COVID on the finances of racing, including the potential mitigating impact of reform to the Levy, and making clear that the return of the public to racecourses is essential. Further proposals on the Levy are now being developed, supported by Nick Rust and his team.
“It is vital that we work through the appropriate channels, recognising racing’s close relationship with the betting industry. Pursuing alternative routes risks dividing racing into competing factions.”