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Ladbrokes & Coral Offload 106 Race Courses

October 29, 2020

- Grant Whittington

GVC Holdings has announced the end of an era in British and Irish horse racing.

The industry giant has confirmed that it has decided to offload all 106 of the horse racing pitches in its portfolio. In fact, the pitches have according to GVC already been sold to an unnamed sports betting industry rival. GVC brands will henceforth no longer be offering any on-course services and/or sports betting bookmaking operations at any of Britain and Ireland’s race courses.

The group has explained its decision to offload as the result of increasing fears over the lasting impact of the ongoing global health crisis on spectator attendances at local race courses. The crisis has according to the group been exacerbated to the point of extreme action by a combination of historically poor performances over the past couple of years, the effects of the current crisis, and the extreme uncertainty regarding the future of in-person spectatorship.

Exit Is Telling Of Bigger Crisis

Ladbrokes and Coral have both been horse racing household brands for many decades in the U.K. as well as Ireland and beyond. The mass exit now in the offing represents yet another blow to the horse racing industry.

The crisis reportedly also affects at least 17 members of staff currently employed in GVC’s horse racing portfolio. These staff members are reportedly currently involved in employment negotiations with the new owner.

The departure by Ladbrokes and Coral have raised new concerns over the survival of the horse racing industry in the U.K. and Ireland. Racing officials are now predicting a worse-case scenario sort of outcome in the event that in-person spectator attendance remains a no-go in the foreseeable future. So much so, that said officials are issuing warnings over the possibility of courses closing down for good as soon as next year.

According to recent opinions raised by, among others, British Horseracing Authority CEO Nick Rust, failing immediate financial assistance from government, several facilities will have no other option but shutting their doors for good in 2021. And according to David Armstrong of the Racecourse Association, the financial help required will have to be forthcoming before spring next year.

In-Person Attendance Now Crucial

The main issue at hand at present is clearly that of an absence of in-person attendance. And it’s a challenge not anticipated to be resolved anytime soon.

It wouldn’t require much more than a quick glance in the direction of government’s overall handling of the crisis within the context of major league football to realise that the nightmare is far form over. Despite numerous suggestions made by the EFL and the Premier League regarding possible models government could elect to emulate in order to bring about much-needed relief to struggling clubs and arenas, government has largely failed to step up to the plate.

Race courses, not unlike many of the country’s smaller football clubs, rely heavily on ticket sales and actual in-person attendance for their day-to-day survival. Without spectators, most professional sports bodies and organisations are simply not able to hold head above water.

Such is the magnitude of the crisis that even the live broadcasting of horse racing events has not proved sufficient or effective enough a remedy in order to ensure the survival of the industry. The only remaining solution right now would be for government to plug the financial holes of its own making by extending to the country’s professional sports industry the courtesy of desperately needed monetary aid.

Failing this, many horse racing courses decades-long in existence will be left with no other recourse but to close for good their doors on an important part of British sports history.

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