Bookmakers intensify fixtures row

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The Independent Online
Racing's corridors of power seem poised to become a battleground in the wake of a critical report commissioned by Ladbrokes over which the British Horseracing Board and the Levy Board take opposing views. The report identified areas of concern with the fixture list and called for the "customer-friendly" approach to fixtures to be altered in favour of a more "Levy-friendly" system.

That call was backed by Rodney Brack, chief executive of the Levy Board, who said: "The Board is concerned at the fall in betting turnover. This year this is expected to be about 4%, and as a consequence the Levy yield will drop from pounds 55m to pounds 48m. Reduced turnover is attributable largely to the growth of the National Lottery but there is little doubt that the racecourse-customer-friendly fixture list has also had an adverse effect on off-course betting."

But David Oldrey, head of race-planning at the BHB, said: "The [report's] conclusions remain largely unsound so far as racing is concerned. Although we are making considerable efforts to accommodate the views of off-course bookmakers in agreeing on guidelines for the 1997 list it is disappointing to see so little actual response in substance from Ladbrokes."