Jersey's horse racing future under threat

HORSE racing has taken place in Jersey since 1789, but its future is in serious doubt.

The future of horse racing at Les Landes depends on the Jersey Race Club's ability to raise up to £100,000 before next season Picture: ROB CURRIE
The future of horse racing at Les Landes depends on the Jersey Race Club's ability to raise up to £100,000 before next season Picture: ROB CURRIE

Members of the Jersey Race Club received a letter by email earlier this week which made clear that the organisation’s ‘future is in a very parlous state following the fallout from the Coronavirus disaster’. The message went on to outline the urgent need to raise funds for the club to survive through the winter and has since been followed by news that the club’s president, Mark Johnson, has resigned.

One of the fundraising measures is to invite members to pay annual subscriptions early for the 2021 season. This, against the background that the club has decided not to refund members their 2020 subscriptions despite the fact that they did not get the sport they paid to see. Nor will subscriptions paid in respect of 2020 be rolled over to next year for returning members. Attached to the letter was a membership application form inviting subscriptions for full membership at £200, with a concession for early payment. One regular race-going member described the invitation as ‘adding insult to injury’.

In addition to members’ fees the club had collected significant sums in sponsorship for this year from individuals and companies, but says it has either refunded sponsors or is in the process of doing so unless the sponsor has agreed to allow their contribution to be rolled over to next season.

JRC has two employees, a clerk of the course and a secretary and both have remained in employment throughout, despite the fact that racing has not taken place, with their employment costs offset through the government’s employer easement scheme. The club is receiving £1,600 per month government support for each employee.

The letter added: ‘Total income this financial year is one sixth of the average earned in 2018 and 2019 (excluding sponsorship of race prize monies). We have received no income from our regular earners such as admissions, tote surplus, race entries, concessions and bar sales which items make up between 75% to 80% of our normal income. The result of this situation is an operating deficit of between £65,000 and £75,000.’

With no reserves the club says it will need to raise at least £100,000 to ensure the future of racing. That said, dates for next season’s meetings have been published, subject to Bailiff’s approval.

Mr Johnson, a UK based, world-renowned racecourse commentator, was elected president before the 2018 season. He had articulated a plan to help fund the local sport through new sources of income achieved from wider coverage of racing in Jersey and increased betting turnover. However, it appears there had been no interest in the plan.

A statement released by JRC read: ‘Mark lives and is employed in the UK and has thus found, not being able to travel to Jersey for most of this year and the inability to have face to face meetings, it is impossible to perform his role to the extent that the committee and members of JRC should expect.

‘Accordingly he is resigning to allow the club to appoint new officials in good time to formulate their own plans in preparation for the renaissance of horseracing on our Island next spring. We all wish him well, thank him for the role he has performed as president and look forward to seeing him back on our shores at some stage in the future.

‘In the meantime, JRC committee has appointed Mrs ‘Bunny’ Roberts as interim president and Anthony Taylor as a vice-president (alongside vice-resident Hugh Raymond) until our AGM in November at which time officials and committee members will be subject to election by members in the normal manner.’

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