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Sponsorship cutbacks on the cards 03/1/2008
Ron Cox
Bookies vent anger over TurfTV and Levy deals Race-backing worth £9m each year under threat

Bookmaker sponsorship of racing, worth £9m to the sport in prize money per year, could be under threat with the emergence of TurfTV as a new provider of pictures to betting shops. The deal recently struck with the racecourse consortium behind TurfTV by Ladbrokes and Coral, with Hill's set to follow, looks certain to have repercussions for the 31 tracks affiliated to the new company with bookmaker industry insiders predicting cutbacks.
The Horseracing Sponsors Association
The Horseracing Sponsors Association

Sandown Park has already suffered with Hill's pulling out of their sponsorship of the Tingle Creek Chase. While Irish bookmakers Paddy Power stepped in, Betfred, who are back in talks with TurfTV, have already ended their backing of April's big end-of-season chase, known for many years as the Whitbread Gold Cup.

"Betfred had no problem with us," said Sandown's clerk of the course Andrew Cooper yesterday. "They said they wouldn't have gone but for the dispute with TurfTV brewing. It was the same with Ladbrokes, who used to sponsor our meeting this weekend."

TurfTV, which now sells the broadcast rights for all the country's major racecourses including Ascot, Cheltenham, Aintree and Epsom, was set up as a rival to Satellite Information Services, whose major shareholders include bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes.

"It is a worry," said Nigel Payne, chief executive of the Horseracing Sponsors' Association, yesterday. "Around 40% of race-sponsorship is betting or bookmaker-based. If they don't sponsor, who else will?"

"I haven't heard of any dramatic withdrawals," added Payne. "A lot of sponsored races are under contract, such as the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham. But much will depend on the Levy ruling. Bookmakers expect some cost to come off their payment to racing."

"We aren't about to withdraw everything," said Ladbrokes spokesman Ciaran O'Brien. "But sponsorship is reviewed on an annual basis. There is a significant extra cost in taking up TurfTV, but we are now focusing on the Levy and pressing our case for that."

The bookmakers' case is that for the 2008-09 scheme they should give £32.3m towards the Levy, an annual payment made to the sport by off-course layers. Racing is calling for bookies to stump up £85.5m. The TurfTV deal, at a cost of £6,500 per betting shop, had to be taken into account said the bookmakers. However, unconfirmed reports in the case of the Coral deal with the new company put the cost nearer £4,500.

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