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British Horseracing Authority Throws Wrench into Great Leighs Reopening Plans - Again 24/09/13

This June, the Great Leighs racecourse was on the receiving end of a major blow from the British Horseracing Authority, which essentially rejected its bid for fixtures in 2014. The blow was indeed a huge one, generating an angry and disappointed response on the part of the Great Leighs management.

© Caroline Norris

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The company behind the racecourse, MC Racetracks, has submitted a business plan to the BHA, which – according to Keith Brown, chairman of MC Racetracks – was comprehensive and it provided proof of backing from the bank, sponsors as well as shareholders and other partners. According to Brown, all the guidelines laid out by the BHA had been met, therefore the rejection of the application must’ve been done based on the BHA’s own and apparently different interpretation of those guidelines.

The BHA didn’t say why it had rejected the application. In a statement released in the wake of the decision, it did say though that the application had been given thoughtful and careful consideration and that in light of its findings, the BHA found itself in no position to approve it. The story behind the rejection goes back to May last year, when the BHA board rejected a similar application from the racecourse, in regards to the 2013 fixtures. Back then, Keith Brown took the setback in stride, pinning his hopes on direct meetings with the BHA that he thought would solve the problem. This time around, never having managed to move any closer to a resolution of the issue, he was much more aggravated.

Brown accused the BHA of showing ill will towards his operation and of working towards preserving the duopoly of the two main racecourse operators, thus hindering competition and ultimately hurting the industry.
Apparently, despite keeping the actual reasons behind the rejection off-record, BHA officials have pointed to the lack of robustness of the business plan submitted by the racecourse operator and the allegedly uncertain financial footing of the entire setup.

The racecourse has been acquired by its current owner from the distressed assets wing of the Royal Bank of Scotland back in 2011. RBS was one of the major creditors behind the original operation.

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