Go Racing in crisis talks to salvage TV rights deal

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Go racing, the consortium bidding for the media rights to horseracing, was last night locked in urgent talks with the British Horseracing Board (BHB) in an effort to salvage its £307m television rights deal.

The group, which represents BSkyB, Arena Leisure and Channel 4, yesterday confirmed that it planned to offer a number of concessions at the meeting in order to try to persuade the BHB to change its mind and award the contract to the joint venture.

Go Racing was stunned last week when the board indicated the deal was on the rocks. This came after Go Racing and the Racecourse Association thought they had reached an agreement with 49 of the country's 59 racecourses.

Go Racing is believed to be prepared to agree to a shorter licence for the rights than the 10-year contract it had been seeking.

It is also thought to be more flexible about the use of BHB data, which includes weights, jockeys and runners. This area had been a major sticking point as Go Racing had wanted the BHB to limit the price for the data. The BHB had refused to do this.

If these last minute concessions do not work, it means, in effect, the end to Go Racing's media rights deal. It also means that Arena, which holds an extraordinary general meeting today, is unlikely to receive backing from shareholders for its planned £86m contribution to fund the deal.

A spokeswoman for Go Racing said: "We have made some alterations to our bid and we should know tonight whether the deal is completely off or whether there is a chance."

While the racing calendar contains only a few races which have mass appeal, Go Racing is keen to secure the media rights in order to exploit the expansion of interactive and internet betting.

Carlton, which was an original competitor in the media-rights contract, dropped out vowing never to return when Go Racing became the preferred option. It is unlikely to reverse this decision.

The outcome of the meeting appears to be finely balanced, with five of the 12-strong BHB board expected to back the deal. Peter Savill, chairman of the board, and Sir Eric Parker, another BHB director, are expected to vote against it.

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