RACING UNITED: CAMPAIGN FOR A FAIR LEVY
LETTER PUBLISHED IN THE RACING POST
On the 11th November 2010 the following letter from British Horseracing Authority Chairman Paul Roy was printed in the Racing Post.
To the Editor, Racing Post
Bruce Millington, last Friday, rightly highlighted the single biggest problem facing the sport we all love: the collapse of levy payments from betting operators. As he pointed out, the effect of loopholes and failings in the current system have led to “savage prize money cuts”, which means that trainers, jockeys, owners and stable staff are all facing reduced income with the inevitable hardship this causes. He is right and that is why the BHA is fighting for Racing and why we have come together as Racing United to campaign for a fair levy.
However, Bruce also suggested that Racing would have been wrong to turn down a guaranteed offer from betting of £75m. This is yet another example of mis-information about the current levy round. Such an offer was never put on the table by the bookmakers as their Committee Chairman, Will Roseff, confirmed in a press release issued on Friday. The true facts are that the bookmakers never moved from their opening bid estimated to be worth less than £50m - an offer which had been rejected by the Levy Board six weeks before the October deadline. At these levels of funding Racing would be decimated. Surely it is the job of all of us, including the Racing Post, to fight for what is right and fair and not to simply roll over and accept whatever is offered. This is something which journalists and their sources should reflect on when they attempt to paint a picture of the BHA being unrealistic in its claims and incredibly, blaming Racing for the levy being referred to government.
I do believe that Racing is united. Betting is not. Whilst William Hill is criticising Betfair for costing us £30m in levy, Betfair itself points out that offshore moves and thresholds are costing Racing a similar figure. If you accept those arguments we would and should be receiving more than £100m but it would appear that their internal disagreements do not allow them to bring their honestly held views to the Levy Board table.
It is clear that the position we find ourselves in is very much a legacy issue originating from the change in the LBO business model, the inception of exchanges and the internet. Sadly, these issues have not been addressed by previous administrations and government. It is preposterous to blame “current management”. The BHA in the last three years has been at the forefront of pushing government and the Levy Board to act on exchanges, thresholds and offshore operators and to modernise the levy process. We will continue to do so with vigour.
In this respect I was disappointed to read Ferdy Murphy’s letter in the Racing Post, not for its content, but for the vital missing fact that almost all of his published suggestions are in line with what the BHA has been arguing for from the start. To present these points as an alternative approach is simply wrong. The BHA has made great efforts to communicate its position and thinking on the sport and the levy in the past three years. It has promoted a level of transparency that has never been seen in the sport before. This gives Racing’s participants and commentators the responsibility to ensure the facts are known and understood. It is time for people to look beyond their own interests to the 20,000 people who depend on British Racing for their livelihoods.
The BHA has also been at the forefront of thinking on how the levy should be overhauled or replaced by a new rights-based commercial mechanism that accurately reflects Racing’s contribution to the betting industry. The current impasse is the result, to a large extent, of missed opportunities and poor decisions pre-dating the creation of the BHA. To accuse today’s BHA of being responsible for it serves no purpose other than to damage our sport and leave us open to continuing exploitation by the betting industry.
It is time for everyone in the sport, participants and commentators, to get behind Racing United and push for a fair and reasonable return from betting.
10 November 2010
STATEMENT FROM BRITISH HORSERACING AUTHORITY CHAIRMAN PAUL ROY
The following statement was made by BHA Chairman Paul Roy in response to MP Philip Davies’ comments in the Racing Post (11 November 2010).
In response to MP Philip Davies’ comments in the Racing Post (11 November 2010), British Horseracing Authority Chairman Paul Roy said:
“It was a surprise to read Philip Davies’ comments first in the Racing Post, and disappointing that he had not approached us directly as we would welcome his constructive support on addressing this vital and complex issue for Racing. Nonetheless, he may simultaneously wish to reflect on the actions of the betting industry whose cause he advocates so forcefully, and their position that Racing’s Levy yield should drop further to under £50m as they continue to exploit the loopholes in our crucial funding structure for the sport.
“British Horseracing, represented by the Horsemen and Racecourses, has been speaking to Government privately, through us, in order to assist Government deliver on its very clearly stated policy objectives.
“As the Chancellor said in June, those objectives are “resolving the future of the Tote in a way that secures value for the taxpayer while recognising the support the Tote currently provides the racing industry”.
“The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport gave some clarification as to what that meant when he said the following to Mr Davies in a Select Committee exchange in September this year: “We have no desire to keep the Tote as part of the public sector. We recognise that it employs 4,500 people. It gives £11 million a year to racing, which is important income for the racing industry. So we’re looking to find a way whereby we can transition the Tote out of the public sector, as it is now, but in a way that maintains - perhaps in a different way - the support that the Tote has always given to the racing world”.
“That is the clear commitment from this Government, and we look forward to Mr Davies and his colleagues delivering on it. Everyone knows that the Tote is a diverse business, which pays its profits to support racing, and resolving its future is a complex issue.
“This Government has rightly sought to avoid the car crashes that have been the story for too many years. Racing’s focus is to ensure that the Tote will continue to provide for the sport at every level as it has done throughout its history. Our discussions with Government have been positive and we have welcomed various public comments from the Government dictating that whatever process is followed, the outcome must benefit racing.
“Mr Davies makes a leap to a ‘sale’, without saying what might be sold, if anything. Certainly you will not see any of the statements of the Chancellor, the Secretary of State or the Minister using the word ‘sale’. The Labour Government did not transfer the Tote to state ownership in 2004, as erroneously stated in the Racing Post article, and the position remains that the Government does not own the Tote, has never put a penny in, and never taken a penny out.
“The last Government was going to nationalise the Tote to give it lock, stock and barrel to a Racing Trust, as part of a packaged set of reforms that included replacing the Levy with a new right that anyone in Europe wanting to offer a bet on British Racing would have had to have bought. Both of these failed due to European interference. I am sure Mr Davies would agree that the intent of the package was right, and that European intervention should not deflect this Government from doing what is right for British Racing. I am also confident that Mr Davies is not in the business of supporting his Government nationalising businesses in which they have never had an interest, and creating havoc in the funding of the sport by doing so.
“Now that the Levy determination has also passed to the Secretary of State, he has a unique opportunity to deal with the many issues that should have been addressed years ago, to ensure fair funding for racing from betting, from as broad a base as possible. The continuing support of the Tote for British Racing is a major part of that.
“This Government knows these are complex issues, and it should be no wonder that they are keeping all options open. The approach to the market over the next few weeks will be a very useful way of flushing out ideas from others as to how to achieve Government’s objectives.
“We are continuing our dialogue with the Government and wish to work closely with them as the current processes advance.”