British Horseracing Board Chairman Martin Broughton has stated that British Racing can emerge from the current appeal over BHB’s database right “stronger than ever”, provided the whole Racing Industry works together in the common interest.
Speaking at the Go Racing in Yorkshire Annual Lunch at Ripon racecourse, Mr Broughton firstly congratulated the nine racecourses in the group on achieving a million racegoers in 2004. Key points of his speech were as follows:
• Mr Broughton acknowledged that the recent European Court of Justice Judgement had created an obstacle to progress, but stressed that BHB remained committed to a commercial funding mechanism for the industry. Some sort of statutory cover would be needed in the interim however, to be devised by the Racing Industry, Levy Board, Bookmakers and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The ECJ has created an “irritating and expensive delay”, he said, but added: “whatever the Court of Appeal decides, the ECJ has at least drawn a road map to enable us to reconfigure our processes to meet the legal requirements for charging for data.”
• Delays to the implementation of The Modernisation of British Racing were inevitable, including reforms to the Fixture Allocation Process that were set to enable a substantial increase in the number of meetings in 2006. Mr Broughton revealed that two BHB Shareholders, the RCA and the ROA, have withdrawn their support for the immediate introduction of proposed BHB Board changes. “I have received reassurances that this is just a timing delay and not a vote of no-confidence in the proposed Board or a reneging on their commitment to change,” he said.
• Mr Broughton reiterated the confidence in the strength of the existing data licence with Irish bookmakers, but added that BHB must nevertheless act prudently in the current circumstances. While wishing to retain the current infrastructure, there will be a need to put some schemes on ice until the situation becomes clearer. Budget proposals will be put to the Board at its meeting next Wednesday.
• Referring to Race Planning matters, Mr Broughton highlighted that the fundamental reason for the excessive eliminations this autumn is a shortage of fixtures, but that BHB was “close to a solution” to the problem of certain groups of horses being consistently eliminated. With regard to the new rules for Novices’ Chases, the very existence of such races is under threat unless they become more competitive, but BHB will be flexible in terms of the solution to this. Mr Broughton stated: “I believe a willingness to listen and be flexible is a hallmark of good governance. Good governance demands that the governed play a key role in the process.”