Abandoned race meetings cost Arena Leisure dear

RACECOURSE operator Arena Leisure has warned that profits will be lower than expected after seven race meetings were cancelled as a result of the bad weather.

The group's Doncaster racecourse cancelled two meetings on December 10 and 11. An extra fixture was held to replace these on January 12, but this falls outside the 2010 financial year.

The company, the UK's largest operator of horseracing, said that annual profits for the year to December 31 will be 300,000 to 400,000 lower after the race meetings were cancelled in the last five weeks of 2010.

The group's shares closed flat last night at 27.75p.

They fell by more than five per cent earlier in the day, but picked up at the close.

Arena said total attendance during the year decreased by 6,000 to 633,000 after the seven race meetings were abandoned due to the heavy snowfall. That compared with just one weather-related abandonment a year earlier.

The total number of weather-related abandonments for the year was 18, up from eight in 2009.

The group said its three all-weather tracks, at Lingfield Park, Southwell and Wolverhampton, staged six additional meetings at short notice in December, which made a positive contribution to profits but less than it would have earned had scheduled fixtures gone ahead as planned.

Arena said December's total attendance was 14,000 down than on December 2009, due to abandonments and reduced turnout.

It added that its outlook for 2011 remains unchanged and is based on 353 scheduled fixtures.

Average attendances in 2010 increased by 4.4 per cent on 2009, with strong growth in hospitality revenues.

The group's other racetracks include Royal Windsor, Folkestone and Worcester.

September's St Leger festival, held at Doncaster racecourse, helped to boost attendances at its racecourses between July and October to 292,000, compared with 279,000 a year earlier.

Attendance over the four days of the festival was up by 7,000 to 60,000, including a Saturday crowd of 30,000 compared with 27,000 a year earlier.

The annual St Leger festival has great economic significance for the economy of Doncaster.

The town stages a week of events around the world-famous meeting, including guided heritage walks around the town and musical performances, to promote the area as a destination for tourism and business.

A reduction in the levy paid by bookmakers to support horseracing has hit the group's profits.

The corporate and private hospitality business saw some recovery, although it has been hit by the economic conditions.