Cheltenham sponsorship snub shows rift between bookies and racing

Cheltenham sponsorship snub shows rift between bookies and racing

Monday, February 22, 2016
Ladbrokes will not be present at Cheltenham due to the continuing row over ABP status

Ladbrokes said it “cannot envisage” becoming an authorised betting partner (ABP) as it announced it will not open its two betting shops at this year’s Cheltenham Festival after being replaced as the sponsor of the World Hurdle at the famous horseracing meet.

Ladbrokes follows Betfred in departing major sponsorships at the Festival, with Jockey Club Racecourses, which operates

Cheltenham, having vowed not to enter new commercial agreements with non-ABP firms. The World Hurdle will now be backed by budget airline Ryanair, while the Gold Cup is to be partnered by telecoms company Timico.

Ladbrokes said it had been eager to continue its sponsorship of the World Hurdle, which had been in place since 2005, and spokesman David Williams told the Daily Mail newspaper that the company was “sad and angry” that no deal could be reached.

“We will 100 per cent not be opening the shops,” said Williams. “We have informed Cheltenham. We cannot reconcile the fact that we cannot sponsor the World Hurdle but were told we were welcome to run the shops. That is not something we can justify to our board. It does not make sense to us.

“We will be stripping the shops of Ladbrokes livery before the Festival and operate where we are welcome. We absolutely wanted to sponsor the World Hurdle and run the shops. This makes us a combination of sad and angry but under the circumstances we cannot envisage becoming an ABP.”

The ABP plan, announced last October by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the Racecourse Association (RCA) and the Horsemen’s Group, awards status to operators that pay the Horserace Betting Levy or who have a commercial funding deal in place which sees them pay an agreed equivalent sum. At the time, racecourse operators Arena Racing (ARC) and Jockey Club Racecourses – which run nearly 60 per cent of racing fixtures - said they will not enter into any new commercial arrangements, including race sponsorship, with betting operators that do not make a contribution.

It was suggested at the time that Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill, which make a voluntary contribution to racing, could be given a waiver, but the decisions made at Cheltenham appear to show that the racing operators are resolved. Betfair, Bet365, BetVictor, 32Red and Fitzdares are the only companies that have so far been awarded ABP status.

Meanwhile, Ladbrokes has signed a deal with World Snooker to sponsor both the World Grand Prix and Players Championship tournaments for this year. For both tournaments, Ladbrokes will double the bonus paid by World Snooker to any player for a successful 147 break. 

Kristof Fahy, Ladbrokes chief marketing officer, said: “We're bolstering our sponsorship portfolio all the time and the addition of two popular snooker tournaments will serve us well. We are building our brand in a sport which has proven in-play betting appeal.

“Sponsorship at Ladbrokes is much more than sticking ribbons on a trophy and we're looking forward to working with World Snooker to raise the profile of these events even further.”

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