Racing 'must stay on terrestrial TV'

A SENIOR figure behind Newmarket Racecourses has spoken of the importance of keeping racing on terrestrial television – as negotiations over future broadcasting rights rumble on.

A SENIOR figure behind Newmarket Racecourses has spoken of the importance of keeping racing on terrestrial television - as negotiations over future broadcasting rights rumble on.

Managing director Lisa Hancock admitted it could be potentially damaging to the sport and the town if Newmarket racing was confined to satellite television in the wake of the collapse of the sport's TV rights deal.

Although a three-month interim contract has now been signed with Channel Four - Newmarket's preferred choice - bosses at the television company said they would drop out of negotiations if a long-term contract was not signed by Thursday .

Newmarket owners the Racecourse Holdings Trust said they were keeping all options open following the termination of the £307 million deal with Attheraces .

But Ms Hancock said: “The news is extremely disappointing for us and all the sponsors and we are working hard to ensure we have terrestrial television coverage.

“We are safe until June which is great news in the short term and now negotiations are continuing with broadcasters for the longer term.”

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Ms Hancock made no secret of the fact the racecourse, encompassing the Rowley Mile and July Courses, wanted to remain with Channel Four.

She said: “We are looking for a longer term commercial deal with a partner who can offer us a real commitment and significant airtime.

“Channel Four have been a fantastic partner for us, we enjoy fantastic coverage but we now need to renegotiate. Everything is up for grabs with the demise of Attheraces.”

The digital satellite channel, which sublet contracts to Channel Four and the BBC, went off the air last week.

It is rumoured that ITV are in the stages of offering a substantial financial package while Channel Four have told the Racecourse Holdings Trust a long-term deal must be signed by Thursday or they will pull out of negotiations.

A spokeswoman for Channel Four said negotiations were progressing over a deal to screen horse racing from Newmarket and 12 other courses until December 2005.

She said: “Channel Four remains deeply committed to horse racing. We have always had a special relationship with Newmarket and we are very much hoping negotiations with the Racecourse Holdings Trust are successful.”

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