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Betfair get there first but others not far behind.

SLEIGHT of hand or fleet of foot? The so-called 'historic, landmark' deal struck between the BHA and Betfair is open to several interpretations.

For starters, it formalises the arrangement that Betfair already have with the Levy Board, since it follows the exact formula of the 10.75 per cent payment from gross profits on UK horseracing on which the land-based betting industry is compelled to operate.

This was precisely the basis on which Betfair voluntarily paid pounds 6.7 million out of the near pounds 75m total raised by the 2011-12 levy scheme.

What has changed is that the BHA-Betfair deal is bound up contractually in a longer-term guarantee than the one-year levy arrangement laid down by statute.

What has not changed is the three major bricks-and-mortar bookmakers - Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill - have been talking to elements of British racing's administration for several months about the prospects of making an extended agreement, with three- and five-year terms being mentioned.

These individual firms have already shown their commitment to British racing. As part of the negotiations on the annual levy scheme that started in April, but outside its formal terms, they guaranteed to hand over pounds 45m between them.

Elementary maths shows how much more they contribute directly to levy income compared with Betfair.

It is therefore more than a touch disingenuous for those who negotiated the new deal with Betfair to say they hope it will provide a template for the future funding of racing, as if this was something new.

The template has already been talked about and there is willingness among major bookmakers, who would almost certainly carry others with them, to work to it.

The big difference as of yesterday is that Betfair got in first, which is where fleetness of foot comes in, since it seems the last name was attached to the documents just 30 minutes before the BHA was due to start its judicial review case with William Hill over the Levy Board's decision not to pursue all betting-exchange users for levy.

The BHA has wiped the slate clean and Betfair are sitting pretty, because they will be in the same position whether William Hill win or lose their now single-handed case.

Smiles all round - for the moment.

vvControl REL-inquished? The element of surprise in the BHA-Betfair partnership was matched only by England's elevation to fourth place in the Fifa world rankings.

However, questions remain, such as: who's in charge of British racing's corporate commercial arrangements? The BHA was supposed to have surrendered this aspect to Racing Enterprises Ltd, a 50-50 enterprise between the horsemen and the racecourses.

Yet REL has not been mentioned. To all intents and purposes the new deal was masterminded by Paul Bittar (BHA) and Simon Bazalgette (Jockey Club), with varying degrees of input from the RCA and Horsemen's Group.

Maybe a new order in the modernisation of racing's administrative structure is emerging.

If so, the sooner the HG sorts out its own constitution and establishes sound, suitable funding the better.

vvWaterwo es Ffos Las, Chepstow, Perth, Leicester, Sandown: all abandoned this week because of waterlogged ground.

Sandown? Yes, Sandown. But this was Sandown in Victoria, renamed Sportingbet Park in honour of the global betting operator that took over sponsorship rights from Betfair this year and where a mixed card of Flat and jumps had to be transferred because of "ongoing rain".

Same concerns, but the major difference, of course, is that it's winter in Australia, whereas Britain should have emerged from flaming June into even drier July.

Who'd be a clerk of the course? vvAnother smallw onder Unfortunate though Thomas Gilligan might have been to miss out on an attempt at the Scoop6 bonus - because the fact he held the only winning ticket from the previous week came to light too late - his lifechanging win worth nearly pounds 400,000 for a pounds 2 stake will still strike a chord with the vast majority of punters.

It also drives another set of coach and horses through perceptions that the weekly bet has too high a unit charge and landing the jackpot is the sole preserve of big-staking syndicates.

vvSundayw arning Moving the Irish Derby from Sunday afternoon to Saturday evening was a bold idea that appears to have worked, at least in the first year, in terms of holding crowd figures and producing an inevitable, although hardly striking, increase in viewers watching on Ireland's national terrestrial channel.

However, the fact the authorities decided on the switch in the first place should act as a warning to those who want British racing to put on a consistent series of high-grade Sunday events with massive prize-money.

Ireland has fashioned its sparser fixture list around this ideal; Britain has not, and nor would it necessarily make financial sense to do so.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 6, 2012
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