Horse Racing: The Jockey Club posts 2016 annual turnover of £191.5 million!

By Laura Donnellan, School of Law, University of Limerick, Republic of Ireland

The Jockey Club, on 26 April 2017, announced its annual accounts for 2016, with a group turnover of £191.5 million, an increase of £8.2 million over 2015 (Jockey Club, We unveil record annual results and contribution back to racing, 26 Apr. 2017, http://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/news/we-unveil-record-annual-results-and-contribution-back-to-racing). This is the eighth consecutive year that the Jockey Club’s annual turnover has increased (Ibid.).

The operating profit of the Jockey Club group was £22.6 million, an increase of £700,000 over 2015; thus, 2016 represents the group’s largest operating profit to date. This increase is all the more significant given that the prize money contribution of the Jockey Club increased from £19.9 million in 2015 to £20.8 million in 2016.

The Jockey Club was established in 1752 as a private members’ club, consisting of racecourse owners; wealthy breeders; and general aristocracy (for a detailed discussion on its origins see: Wray Vamplew, “Reduced Horse Power: The Jockey Club and the Regulation of British Horseracing” (2003) 2 (3) Entertainment Law 94-111).

Until 31 July 2007, the British Horseracing Board (BHB) governed horse racing in Britain. The BHB was in existence from 1993 until its cessation in 2007. It was initially created to assume some of the responsibilities that had fallen under the aegis of the Jockey Club.

The creation of the BHB was seen as an attempt to distance the sport from the Jockey Club, which had long been associated with aristocracy, elitism and amateurism. The Jockey Club, under the auspices of the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA), retained some responsibilities in relation to the regulation of the sport, namely discipline and equine health. The HRA and the BHB merged in 2007 and formed a new authority, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

The role of the Jockey Club is: “investing in and generating returns from its commercial interests, to plough back into the sport” (The Jockey Club, Our Heritage, http://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/about/our-heritage). The Jockey Club has a portfolio of 15 racecourses, including Aintree, Epsom Downs and Newmarket. Since the merger, the Jockey Club has operated as a commercial entity with no involvement in the regulation or governance of the sport of horse racing in Britain.

The operating profits of the Jockey Club come from a number of streams including: large racing festivals; the Jockey Club Live events; commercial partnerships; media licences; and fees and revenue raised through the use of the Jockey Club Estates’ training facilities.

The Jockey Club, a company limited by Royal Charter, is an overarching structure that houses the following entities: Jockey Club Racecourses; Jockey Club Estates; the National Stud; and Racing Welfare.

The Jockey Club Racecourses, the largest racecourse group in Britain, operates the 15 racecourses (http://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/jockey-club-racecourses). In 2016, there were 333 race days; an attendance of 1.92 million; and a turnover of £182 million (an increase of £7.8 million on the figures for 2015) (Jockey Club, “We unveil record annual results and contribution back to racing”).

The Jockey Club Estates is a property and land management company which oversees 4,500 acres of land at Newmarket and 550 acres at Lambourn (http://www.jockey-club-estates.co.uk/newmarket-training-grounds/jockey-club-family). The Jockey Club Estates own all the property (which currently consists of 90 properties) and assets of the Jockey Club with the exception of the 15 racecourses.  In 2016, the Jockey Club Estates had a turnover of £6.9 million, an increase of 400,000 over 2015.

The National Stud’s turnover remained the same in 2016 at £2.5 million. It was temporarily closed due to equine herpes (see Tom Morgan, “Queen’s racehorse breeding programme hit as National Stud farm has outbreak of herpes”, 2 Feb. 2016, Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/12136697/National-Stud-farm-has-outbreak-of-herpes-just-two-weeks-before-mating-season.html).  The National Stud, based in Suffolk, is in charge of thoroughbred breeding and education (http://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/the-national-stud).

In 2014, the Jockey Club Live was launched with the aim of combining live music and racing (http://thejockeyclublive.co.uk/). The next scheduled event is the Kaiser Chiefs on 18 May at Aintree Racecourse (http://thejockeyclublive.co.uk/#events).

Simon Bazalgette, Chief Executive of the Jockey Club Group, attributed the 2016 turnover to a number of factors, including the new media partnership with ITV (see Laura Donnellan, “Channel 4 hands over the broadcasting reins to ITV”,  6 Dec. 2016) http://www.sportsandtaxation.com/2016/12/channel-4-hands-over-the-broadcasting-reins-to-itv/ ).

He also stated:

“Now with reforms to racing’s funding, a settled governance structure and a committed partner in ITV, British Racing can kick-on, matter to more people in this country and ensure the sport has the best possible future at all levels, including its grassroots.” (Jockey Club, We unveil record annual results and contribution back to racing).

The announcement follows a Press Release in January of this year, whereby the Jockey Club stated that “[i]n line with its Royal Charter commitments to act for the long-term good of British Racing”, it would be investing in a number of nationwide programmes including contributing record prize money (which it refers to as the lifeblood of racing); funding for participants; holding high quality events with state of the art facilities; enhancing horse welfare; and bolstering the education of racing’s workforce (The Jockey Club, Proposed half a billion pound investment in British Racing, 10 Jan. 2017, http://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/news/proposed-half-a-billion-pound-investment-in-british-racing).

In keeping with its promises, the Jockey Club Group will be using the profits from 2016 and reinvesting them back into the sport.

One notable absence from the Press Release announcing the annual accounts for 2016 is that of horse welfare. Whilst the above statement explicitly refers to “enhancing horse welfare”, the paragraph on Racing Welfare just refers to the people involved in racing. In 2016, 2,008 individuals received support, an increase of 73% on 2015 (Jockey Club, We unveil record annual results and contribution back to racing). Whilst this may be an oversight, a breakdown of the figures in relation to the funding of horse welfare would have been a welcome inclusion.

With the operating profits increasing for the past eight years, this augurs well for the future profits of the Jockey Club Group. Although operating costs have increased, for example, the total prize money in 2016 was £43.6 million, with a contribution of £20.8 million from the Jockey Club (in 2009, the contribution by the Jockey Club was £12.2 million, Jockey Club, We unveil record annual results and contribution back to racing), the sport has flourished under the direction of the Group.

Whilst the Jockey Club continues to reinvest money into the sport of horse racing in Britain, the financial rewards will no doubt follow, and its future thereby assured.

 

Laura Donnellan may be contacted by e-mail at ‘laura.donnellan@ul.ie’