Prize money at The Jockey Club’s racecourses is set to increase by more than £3 million for the remainder of 2021 in a move that will see its fixtures in the second half of the year run within 9% of pre-pandemic levels.
The Jockey Club is committing to increase prize money with racegoers starting to return, albeit in heavily restricted numbers at this stage, and with more confidence around industry funding. Finances at the largest commercial group in British Racing remain constrained after more than a year of significantly reduced revenues, which will continue to impact it for some time.
Updated plans for 2021, prior to any abandonments or further pandemic restrictions, now see total prize money due to exceed £42 million for the year, spread across all levels of the sport given The Jockey Club operates 15 racecourses, large and small. This total is before additional funding from the industry’s Appearance Money Scheme (AMS).
Increases will be seen immediately, including at the Cazoo Derby Festival, with a further £65,000 being added to the card compared to advertised values, and with a £135,000 boost for Coral-Eclipse Day.
In 2020, Jockey Club Racecourses distributed £30.5 million in prize money. The pandemic caused the abandonment of fixtures from mid-March up to June – including the Randox Grand National which is normally worth £1 million alone – and the overall loss of more than £90 million from the group’s revenues, which is a trend that has continued through the first half of 2021.
While The Jockey Club did not pass the full extent of this income drop through into prize money, the heavy financial impact of the pandemic has forced the reduction of race values across British Racing.
Prior to up to 4,000 racegoers being able to attend racecourses from 17th May, spectators have not been able to enjoy racing fixtures in person for more than a year, aside from a short period in December for selected parts of the UK. Spectators account for nearly 50% of revenues at Jockey Club Racecourses, with a further 10% of its income coming from staging conferences and other types of events, which have also been unable to take place.
The Jockey Club has a mission to act for the long-term benefit of British Racing. One of the ways it seeks to achieve this is by reinvesting all profits back into the sport. Efforts to grow commercially – which were stopped sharply due to the coronavirus pandemic – saw it able to increase its contribution to prize money by 103% over the decade prior to the pandemic (£13 million contribution in 2010 to £26.4 million contribution in 2019). This saw average prize money per fixture at Jockey Club Racecourses increase from £105,883 in 2010 to £152,752 in 2019.
Across the sport, total prize money grew from £99 million in 2010 to £154.5 million in 2019 (while total fixture numbers grew only 3.81%).
Nevin Truesdale, Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, said:
“One of our imperatives since the start of the pandemic has been to keep prize money values under constant review. The financial impact of coronavirus has been very significant indeed and it will take some time yet to recover. However, with some positive indicators around funding and with spectators starting to return, albeit in heavily restricted numbers at this point, we wanted to move quickly to announce this prize money increase.
“The biggest issue aside from losing so much of our revenue has been the constant uncertainty. If you could guarantee after the second lockdown that things would return permanently to normal, we would have been able to plan investments accordingly, but here we are well over a year into the pandemic and we are only just starting to welcome some racegoers back. Therefore, we continue to have to play the situation as it comes and ensure we would remain solvent if another lockdown occurred.
“I’d like to thank participants for the huge amount of patience they’ve shown and reassure them that The Jockey Club always treats prize money as an absolute priority, as I hope our track record and this announcement leaves no doubt about. We aim to get our prize money contributions fully back to pre-pandemic levels as soon as we realistically can.”