|For punters across the UK today, the choice of viewing could consist of foreign race meetings, as live TV coverage from 49 of the UK’s 59 racecourses (racetracks) will be cancelled – unless a last-ditch deal is brokered between the Racecourse Association (RCA) and bookmakers.|
Negotiations for the TV rights had a May 1 deadline, but Yesterday the bookmakers' best offer was a conditional £3,500 a year per betting shop – a total annual income of less than £20 million, which the 49 courses rejected. The RCA's price bring in a total of approximately £35 million per year.
Earlier negotiations ended last Friday after the RCA reduced its asking price by £1,000 from its original figure of £5,000 a year for each shop and a “substantial increase” in the bookmakers offer was rejected.
This means that only the 10 smaller courses - signed up to a separate deal with GG-Media - will be seen in betting shops along with races shown on terrestrial television and from abroad.
The decision to reject the bookmakers' offer came at the annual general meeting of the RCA held in London, and its chairman, Keith Brown, urged bookmakers to return to the negotiating table.
'The resolve of the meeting was clear and the RCA sticks to its determination to achieve a fair deal for racing,' said Brown. 'Our team are prepared to meet with the bookmakers at any time and talk through the night if necessary.
'The message from a key part of bookmakers' customer base today was unequivocal that without pictures they will bet less. I urge bookmakers to return to the negotiating table with serious intent as soon as possible for the benefit of racing, punters and their own business.'
With no deal, in-shop coverage will be limited to the BBC's televised Ascot meeting, plus Exeter (one of the 10 meetings that have already signed), racing from South Africa, Italy, numerous greyhound meetings and endless numbers draws.
Ladbrokes, the country's biggest bookmaker, said it was disappointed that the RCA had refused to accept the offer from the industry.
'We believe that our industry offer is fair and equitable, moving from the current £13m per annum to a minimum of £20.5m per annum within 20 months,' said a spokesman.