29th September 2013

Prize money agreements: It must pay to be good

British racing should be a meritocracy. Those who do right by the sport should be rewarded to do right by the sport time and time again. A system based on merit is a system that drives its own long-term success.

Today represents a landmark moment in the partnership between The Jockey Club's racecourses and racehorse owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys and stable staff (or 'horsemen' collectively). It is a great day for efforts to ensure all parties enjoy a fair share of the sport's commercial success in return for each giving something back that, in turn, helps to further British racing.

You will see in the racing media news that our racecourse arm - alongside several independently-run racecourses including Ascot, Goodwood and York - has signed a prize money agreement with The Horsemen's Group, which is the industry body that represents not only well known figures from Nicky Henderson to AP McCoy and John Gosden to Richard Hughes, but horsemen at all levels of our sport.

Now, for the first time, we have a contractual commitment to share with these participants growth in betting-related media income, through contributions into prize money, which is essential to the livelihoods of many horsemen. I encourage others to follow suit.

Long before this agreement was even considered, The Jockey Club has always shared any commercial success we have generated because we are governed by Royal Charter and because it is the right thing to do for the health of our sport. However, when you are competing in the modern world not only for the business of racing fans, but also the leisure and entertainment pound, we need a better return than just stakeholder goodwill.

Creating more incentives and rewards to support British racing long-term has to be an ongoing aspiration; not just contributions to prize money, but also improving the commerciality and efficiency of the sport, driving innovation and ensuring British racing's heritage is protected and refreshed for future generations.

The Jockey Club has always valued this, going back to our origins more than 260 years ago and more recently, such as through our contribution to the creation of QIPCO British Champions Series and its QIPCO British Champions Day finale, the growth of media values through the creation of the Racing UK and Turf TV media companies, and the £155 million investment we have made in the last decade into our racing facilities, whether track surfaces, grandstands or our training grounds.

Today, we are the largest commercial contributors to prize money in British racing. Every penny of profit we make we put into our sport, with a large percentage going back in the shape of prize money to help to fund the participation of horsemen, whether that is attracting the best horses, trainers and jockeys in the world to compete at our courses or supporting the very heart of racing's grassroots.

Under the terms of the new prize money agreements, The Horsemen's Group considers you a 'Premier' racecourse if you commit to contribute into prize money at least 40% of any growth in your betting-related media income for the next three years and have made significant contributions over the last three years. Courses can attain 'Standard' status if you contract to no less than 33% for the next three years, with no historic measure necessary.

Courses with Premier status will receive a range of additional benefits to reward your actions, from greater flexibility about fees charged to owners to enter their horses in your races (which goes back into prize money) to our sport's talent doing more media activities to promote your events. I'm delighted to say The Jockey Club has put in significantly more than that Premier benchmark between 2010 and 2013 and will do so again next year and beyond, meaning that all 15 of our racecourses have been granted Premier status.

With this comes a greater opportunity for our sport.

I believe in fair competition in an ever-more commercial world and a system that incentivises and rewards behaviour that contributes to the sustainable health of British racing. If you act responsibly for racing, if you use your assets and resources to further the sport and if you do everything in your power to support its long-term health, the sport should reward you within its means, on the basis those rewards can help you to do even more good for British racing.

For example, if as a racecourse or racecourse group you make a major contribution to prize money, you should be first in line for the allocation of new fixtures. That's fair and it's pro-competitive.

Prize money is the lifeblood of British racing; but let's not stop there. Other acts of good also have a value, from investing in initiatives and innovations to promote racing through to moving fixtures from potentially more favourable slots to help our sport to achieve industry-agreed objectives - whether that is to boost Saturdays, better define the start or end of seasons or to help other racedays flourish.

I'd like to see more incentives in the racing industry to encourage all to see the value of acting in its best interests. It pays to grow the cake, not just cut it up. It pays to act for the good of British racing.

Simon Bazalgette is Group Chief Executive of The Jockey Club