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Racecourse Media Group (RMG) has revealed its payments to racecourses have returned to pre-Covid levels, with £110m forecast to be paid to its shareholders for 2021.

The payments, earned through racecourses’ media and data rights, are expected to exceed 2019’s pre-Covid payments of £107m, and have been a contributory factor to many racecourses being able to return prize money to its pre-pandemic levels.

RMG is 100% owned by its racecourse shareholders and pays 100% of operating profit back to racecourses. This collective and collaborative ethos has seen RMG’s businesses become the biggest single funder of British horseracing. The 2021 results follow a hugely challenging year in 2020 when, due to the pandemic, RMG payments to racecourses fell by 25.9% on the previous year.

Chairman Roger Lewis said: “I thank and congratulate everyone involved in racing for their herculean efforts in 2021. The RMG racecourses ensured that horseracing continued for a second year in the most demanding of circumstances, which allowed RMG to deliver as great a return as possible for racing. The RMG model was again tested in 2021 and again proved to be resilient and reliable.

“The investment in, and development of, our media assets and new innovative products – such as the Watch & Bet service, ultra-low latency, on-screen timing data, the exploration of in-play opportunities, and enhancements on Racing TV, headlined by the stunning Virtual Studio – aided our recovery.

“These initiatives all contribute to the RMG strategy of attracting more eyes on to our racing which, in turn, drives betting turnover, subscriptions, and sponsorship opportunities in the sport. And this all feeds into the RMG vision of increasing returns to our racecourses for the benefit of the industry.

“The 2021 performance will mean that RMG will have delivered £1bn to racecourses since the start of the business in 2004. This is a testament to our racecourses’ dedication and commitment to working together for the greater good of racing.”

Lewis steps down from his role at the end of 2022 and the search for a new Chairman is underway.

He joined the Board of RMG in 2012 and was appointed Non-Executive Chairman on January 1, 2019. Over a 40-year career in sport, media and business, Lewis has held senior positions at the BBC, ITV, Classic FM, EMI and Decca, and was GCEO of the Welsh Rugby Union for nine years.

Lewis continues as Chair of the Churchill Lines Foundation, a military charity, a Director of Festival UK 2022 and President of the National Museums of Wales. He also sits on The Platinum Jubilee Civic Honours Panel.

He added: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my decade at RMG and have been humbled by the boundless enthusiasm and support that we receive from our shareholder racecourses.

“I am particularly pleased RMG was able to announce last July that our British racecourses agreed a media rights renewal extension until December 31, 2028.

“This was a pivotal moment for British racing. The RMG racecourses have created business clarity and confidence for years to come. The certainty which this landmark, long-term agreement provides is very special for everyone involved in British racing.

“I pay particular tribute to the outstanding leadership of the RMG CEO, Martin Stevenson, who together with his great team of RMG executives navigated this complex and detailed process with rigour, patience and clear focus and who continue to lead the business with dynamism.

“I have been very fortunate to have worked alongside an outstanding Board of Directors and I sincerely thank them for their friendship, help and support and their incredible insight into the business.”

The business is aiming to exceed 2021’s forecast payments of £110m for the year ahead.

Lewis continued: “RMG can now look forward to serving its shareholder racecourses, which, in turn, benefits the sport of racing for the foreseeable future.

“The unity of purpose which the RMG racecourses have created over the past 18 years, to build an evolving yet sustainable and secure financial business, is a rare and precious thing. It has been a privilege and an honour to have served racing for the past ten years. It’s been one hell of a ride!”

Martin Stevenson, CEO of RMG, paid tribute to Lewis, saying: “I would like to pay tribute to Roger, who during his tenure as first Board member and then Chairman, has been instrumental in the development and success of RMG and its businesses over the last decade.

“In particular, Roger has helped steer RMG through the pandemic, and all the huge challenges it presented, to the point where the business is now producing results, which were on a par with pre-covid payments to racecourses. That is a terrific outcome.

“I thank Roger for his leadership and friendship and for all that he has done for horseracing. We wish him all the best for the future once his tenure comes to its conclusion at the end of the year.”

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