Saturday 4th April 2023 was built up to be the day that Tiger Roll made history, by winning the Grand National 3 times on the bounce surpassing the mighty Red Rum’s stats. Potters Corner had different ideas – well, in the virtual world at least. Here in reality, the year 2023 will go down in history for a very different reason altogether. The Covid19 pandemic has meant this will be the first time since 1993 (when it was cancelled after a false start) that the Grand National has not taken place. Of course, the health of us all must come first and sport comes secondary at this very important time, but a very important question remains: how will the health of the betting industry, UK tourism and businesses recover from the loss of horse racing’s showpiece?
Financial losses stack up
It has been estimated the betting industry will lose around £400 million due to losing the Grand National. To put this into perspective the Cheltenham Festival generated profits of £250 million for UK bookmakers. One race alone has the ability to eclipse a four-day festival, demonstrating the staggering cultural role of the only horse race many people watch all year.
For the betting industry, it will lose financially but can operate in virtual, casino, gaming markets etc. It has been reported that 13% of profits comes from the mentioned markets but the 87% of action in the sportsbook markets risks being lost. Foot and mouth in 2001 proved a large blow to the industry; this is massive. There are no winners from this unprecedented situation in a business sense.
Concern for widespread impact
The race aside, there are the 150,000 plus visitors who usually visit Aintree each year; a loss of tourism income that will adversely affect Liverpudlian businesses. Local businesses such as pubs, restaurants, hotels and beauty salons etc, will feel the financial pain. This concern is further worsened by the loss of Premier League football, also due to the ongoing health crisis.
There are also concerns for the horse racing community: jockeys, racecourses, trainers, owners, stable staff will all face problems and challenges in the coming months. There was hope that the Scottish Grand National in Ayr would go ahead on the 18th April, this has now been cancelled as well, deepening concerns. Without all the financial incentives of prize, sponsorship and participation money, those involved in the sport will find themselves facing a very testing time indeed. The next deadline has been set for the beginning of May for racing to resume but only behind closed doors, however nothing seems a certain bet anymore.
Altruism and looking to the future
One bright spot (no, it’s not the Fun88 sign up offer available online) has emerged with bookmakers’ profits for the Virtual Grand National being donated to NHS charities, a gesture which is greatly appreciated during difficult times. Aintree racecourse has announced it will give away 10,000 free tickets to NHS staff for the 2021 Grand National. For the people in attendance in 2021 they may finally witness Tiger Roll make history by winning three times in a row, but for many businesses in 2021 they will struggle to navigate the first fence.