'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?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map