The news that two of the most high profile bookmaker PR figures have left the business is just the latest in a recent wave of indicators that suggest that racing is rapidly falling down the list of Horse race betting bookmakers priority interests, writes Elliot Slater.
Both the veteran Neal Wilkins, head of PR for Victor Chandler for the last 10 years, and David Hood of William Hill, one of the most recognisable PR faces in the business, have parted company with their respective employers in moves that strongly hint that the focus of the betting industry is now moving away from horse racing and onto general sports betting.
Those who enjoy betting online should note that Wilkins was unavailable for comment, but Hood, in a revealing interview with the Racing Post, made it clear that the budgets being set aside to support the sponsorship and promotion of horse racing have been, and will continue to be reduced year on year as firms feel their money is better spent on more high profile sports like, football, rugby, cricket and golf.
Speaking of his decision to part company with Hill’s, Hood tellingly said: “I love racing and betting, but the non-racing element is taking increasing precedence. It’s a sign of the times, the resources that can be spent on promoting racing are increasingly limited – and racing has to come to terms with this and the pressure it is under.”
Following on from the news in the last seven days that high profile sponsor Stan James (Newmarket Guineas meeting) and Boylesports (The Cheltenham International fixture) will not renew their sponsorship agreements, and the more than £24 million in cuts in prize money and other reductions proposed by the Levy Board for 2011, the future is looking somewhat bleak for the long-term health of horse racing in Britain.