'Black day' for BHB after court verdict

By William Hayler

Racing's search for financial security restarted yesterday after a long-running legal battle over data rights drew to an end with defeat for the British Horseracing Board in the Court of Appeal.

A promised new era of prosperity for the sport now depends on whether a commercial agreement can be reached between racing and bookmakers.

And although officials were insisting that yesterday's decision would not leave racing in crisis, the bargaining power of the bookmakers has unquestionably received a sizeable boost.

BHB plans to charge bookmakers for the use of information extracted from their database have been abandoned after Lord Justices Pill, Clarke and Jacob delivered their unanimous verdict.

The judgment brought to an end a legal process that began back in 2000 when the racing authority initiated action against bookmakers William Hill for using lists of runners and riders.

Success would have enabled the BHB to continue with its plans to replace the existing Levy, which the Government has repeatedly made clear it wants to abolish.

However, it now looks increasingly likely that racing will have to rely on statutory power if it is to ensure that money continues to flow into the sport at a rate acceptable to both parties.

While bookmakers are unlikely to refuse to carry on paying for racing beyond the end of the Levy in 2009, they could expect to have a much greater influence in exactly what sort of racing takes place, putting pressure on small-field events such as novice chases.

In outlining the reasons for their decision to allow William Hill's appeal, all three judges admitted yesterday that while they had sympathy for the BHB's case, guidance from the European Court Of Justice was clear.

Lord Justice Clarke said: "I am conscious that... I have agreed to allowing an appeal against a decision which I was inclined to think was correct when the case was last before the Court of Appeal in July 2001.

"The reason for my change of view is of course the decision and reasoning of the ECJ. The whole point of a reference to the ECJ was to ensure, so far as possible, that the relevant directive is construed in the same way throughout the European Union."

A further hearing in the afternoon confirmed that the majority of costs are to be met by the BHB, with William Hill believed to have spent in the region of £800,000 on the case.

However, a greater financial blow to the BHB may be yet to come, with existing contracts based on the sale of data to bookmakers in Ireland and other countries.

While the BHB have been advised by their legal counsel that these contracts remain valid despite the judgment, a forthcoming case in Dublin could, in theory, force the BHB to return payments already received under the contract. Last year the BHB received a total of more than £17m in commercial income from data deals with bookmakers in Ireland and other parts of Europe.

Spending cuts introduced last year to such as owners' premiums and the fixture development fund are now unlikely to be reversed.

But the extension of the Levy until 2009 and the guaranteed income that generates to racing does give the sport breathing space. A commission headed by Lord Donoughue was set up last year by the BHB to investigate possible future commercial arrangements, but initial discussions have failed to provide any obvious paths.

Speaking shortly after the court verdict, Martin Broughton, the BHB chairman, said: "It is a black day for racing because this decision prevents the lift-off that we all wanted. But it is not a crisis. We have had time to look at the judgment and it basically seems to come down to the difference between data that is created, obtained and verified. Essentially what we need to reflect upon is exactly what sort of database could charge for data, because if this one can't, then actually we can't think of one that can."

A statement from William Hill, whose chief executive is David Harding, said: "Whilst any future litigation remains at the call of the BHB, William Hill hope that the racing industry will now look forward to developing a valid alternative for the future funding of racing."

The BHB chief executive, Greg Nichols, added: "Effectively they have neutered the value of a database. By ruling that the final declarations are created rather than obtained, it seems to fly in the face of technological development. There will be a lot of sports, not just football, sitting up and taking notice of this ruling." Nichols was referring to the difference asserted first by the ECJ and then supported in court yesterday between the "creation" of data, in sending out lists of declared runners and riders, and the "compilation" of data.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
i100(More than you think)
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up