Welfare of industry stakeholders central to trial of major calendar changes

Racing Victoria (RV) has today announced several major initiatives linked to its ongoing review of the working week with the industry, including the Australian Trainers Association (ATA), Victorian Jockeys Association (VJA) and Racing Clubs.

Following consultation over many months with a broad range of industry stakeholders on the current racing and training schedule, RV will implement a series of initiatives on a trial basis to determine their impact on participant welfare, customer engagement and industry funding.

The first round of initiatives will be captured within the 2020-21 Race Dates which will be formally released before the end of March 2020. They have been developed in consultation with the ATA, VJA and Racing Clubs and also take into consideration feedback from punters, industry officials and stable employees.

The initiatives to be captured in the 2020-21 Race Dates are:

  • Race-free week at season’s end – Over the next two racing seasons, RV will trial a race-free week at the conclusion of the racing season. There will be no race meetings or official trials programmed in Victoria from Monday, 26 July 2021 to Friday, 30 July 2021. This will be repeated in July 2022.
  • No racing on Christmas Eve – No race meeting will be programmed on Christmas Eve 2020 and 2021 to allow industry stakeholders a two-day break from racing to assist them in gathering with family and friends to celebrate Christmas. The two-year trial will determine its continuation beyond 2021, noting that Christmas Eve is scheduled on a Saturday in 2022.
  • Increase in race-free days – A restructure of the calendar will see the total number of annual race-free days in Victoria increased from 15 to 17 in the 2020-21 racing season. In order to balance the calendar, Wednesday afternoon meetings will revert to Monday afternoons in the four weeks of February 2021. A total of nine race-free Mondays will be programmed throughout December, January and March with Wednesday twilights to be retained over the existing four-month period.

RV has also announced the following trial around its night meetings in April and May 2020 to gain further insight on the impact of race times on attendance, hospitality and wagering:

  • Earlier finish to night meetings – Under a two-month trial at Pakenham (Thursdays) and Cranbourne (Fridays), the finish time for the nine night meetings from 1 April 2020 to 1 May 2020 will be standardised at the earlier time of 9.30pm; while the remaining five night meetings in the 2019-20 season throughout May 2020 will now finish at 9pm.

RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said, “Whilst we actually conduct less race meetings than years gone by, the footprint of Victorian racing has changed significantly over the past decade as our customers have driven a preference for night and twilight racing.

“The decisions made around our race dates and programming has allowed us to significantly grow returns to participants and owners over recent years, however, we understand there’s a balance to be struck for the welfare of all stakeholders.

“We are alive to the current demands on a broad range of stakeholders, in particular trainers, stable staff and jockeys, and as such we’ve been working closely with the ATA and VJA on a review of the working week for some time.

“Today’s announcements, highlighted by a race-free week and Christmas Eve, are the next steps in a range of initiatives that consider the welfare of a broad range of stakeholders whilst seeking to maintain a sustainable industry for the future.

“We considered a number of options and our experiences with race-free Mondays before determining that we would like to trial some consecutive race-free days as we believe this may ultimately provide a better outcome for the wider industry.

“The trial of earlier finishes at our April and May night meetings will provide us with a greater insight on the impact on attendance, hospitality and wagering to assist our decision-making ahead of the 2020-21 night racing season.

“In making these announcements, I want to stress that our review of the working week remains ongoing and that there a number of areas of interest, including training hours, that we continue to discuss with the ATA, VJA and our Clubs.”