Go Racing offers last-ditch deal for TV rights

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The Independent Online

Go Racing has offered to form a separate joint venture company with the British Horseracing Board to exploit new technology and promote a new "superbet" weekly race. The proposed deal is a last-ditch attempt to secure the BHB's backing for the consortium's bid for the media rights to racing.

The BHB, racing's governing body, extracted the 11th-hour concessions from Go Racing in a marathon conference call that lasted from 10pm on Tuesday night till 7.45am yesterday.

The new venture could allow the £307m media deal to proceed, which would give Go Racing ­ a consortium of Arena Leisure, Channel 4 and BSkyB ­ rights to most UK horseracing for the next 10 years.

The core transaction was agreed last month between Go Racing and the Racecourse Association, which represents the country's racing venues. However, the BHB then refused to give Go Racing access to essential historic data on runners and riders, which it owns. With no BHB support by midnight Sunday, the deadline imposed by Arena, most people had written off the whole acrimonious process. But the proposal to create a separate joint venture vehicle, 50/50 owned by the BHB and Go Racing, could mean the BHB drops its opposition to the main deal. Yesterday, although the surprise agreement was acknowledged, no details were officially given. The compromise, recommended by the BHB's advisers, still has to be put to the BHB board tonight.

The joint venture will instigate a high-profile race, provisionally known as the "superbet" event, which will also be outside the core £307m rights deal. This will be run at different courses each week and it will be heavily promoted, across the world, as a standalone race.

It is understood the BHB will also receive a cash payment of about £20m for use of its data on new technology, including the next generation of mobile phones. The joint venture will develop live graphic images of races, for devices such as phones, and customers will be able to place bets through their handsets. Investment and profits will be shared. The main deal covers traditional television pictures of races and the BHB had been concerned that Go Racing was getting the potential use of new technology for free.

Christopher Stoddart, Go Racing's chief executive, refused to discuss the terms of the compromise but said: "The new arrangements should enable us all to develop new business for racing in a more co-operative environment."

Advisers were still working out details of the agreement yesterday. Arena shares, suspended because of the uncertainty over a deal, will return to dealing on or before next Tuesday, when the 90 million new shares it issued to finance its part of Go Racing, also begin trading.

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