Horseracing players issue Sky warning

Major players in British horseracing have issued a warning about the potential dangers of ditching terrestrial TV and handing exclusive broadcasting rights to Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB.

Moët Hennessy, a major sponsor of the sport, and the Racehorse Owners’ Association (ROA) have reinforced the concerns of sponsors Vodafone and Capel Cure Sharp that a switch from Channel 4 will slash the potential TV audience.

The warning comes in the same week that Whitbread announced it will be pulling out of the sport after failing to reach its 18- to 24-year-old target market.

Rupert Lendrum, director of sponsorship and corporate events at Moët, sponsor of the Gold Cup at Newbury, says: “If it went solely to Sky, we might have something to say. We would have to take a look at the implications.”

ROA chief executive Michael Harris says: “The move to Sky would be a major concern for the whole industry because it could limit sponsorship opportunities.”

Negotiations are taking place between the “Super 12” race courses – which control the lion’s share of the coverage – and the two broadcasters: C4 and Sky.

The Super 12 aim to secure a ground-breaking deal to include TV rights and future interactive betting opportunities. The 47 smaller courses have said they will abide by their decision.

One sponsorship source says: “Some believe Sky will boost racing in a similar way to its Premier League football coverage. But football already had a solid customer base, and racing is desperate to attract a new, younger market, so it needs maximum exposure.”

A decision is expected next week.

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