Fans of the Epsom Derby could be forced to pay to watch the race on television from 2012 as the race is no longer deemed an “event of special national resonance”.
A report released last Friday (13 November) by the Listed Events Review Panel, chaired by former FA executiveDavid Davies recommended the race be removed from the list that ensures major sporting events be free-to-air.
“Our question was ‘does the Derby command a large TV audience and do we believe it has special national resonance in this generation?’” said Mr Davies.
“I think the panel questioned that. This is not to say it is not a terrific race and terrific for the racing community.”
It was suggested that three events, including the Epsom Derby, were removed from the list. Rugby League’s Challenge Cup and the Winter Olympics are also in danger.
The Derby is guaranteed to be free-to-air until 2012 as it is licensed to the BBC until then, but not after that.
The Jockey Club labelled the list “an anachronism” and suggested it be scrapped entirely.
Simon Bazalgette, group chief executive of the Jockey Club, said: “It is clear to us that the Derby remains an event of national resonance, no matter what the panel says.
“It has higher TV audiences than many other sports events and has probably the highest one-day attendance of any British sports event.
“We will continue to build the brands of these key events in conjunction with our commercial partners, Investec and John Smith’s respectively, and with our terrestrial TV partner, the BBC.”
The Grand National is the only horse race remaining on the list, which includes the FA Cup final, Wimbledon and the Olympics.
Mr Davies added: “The Grand National is the easiest event of the lot. On that Saturday in April, there are people who take an interest in racing, who for 364 other days of the year, including Derby Day, have no interest in racing whatsoever.
“Do I think the Derby meets the criteria in the same way? The view of the panel was that it did not.”