My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, Minister, honoured guests;
Over the next 12 minutes or so I will set out the Authority’s plans for the year – the areas we will see as priorities in working for the sport, and working with others in the sport to ensure that British Horseracing is and continues to be, and be seen as, the best in the world. After me, we will move into more of a debate, with an initial focus on the issue of equine welfare. What we are here for, and how we will go about our role is set out in the Annual Review that you can take away with you, and which is available at britishhorseracing.com. Paul has set out the challenges facing racing in 2009, and they are those same challenges we identified and have been addressing in 2008 – organisational, sporting, social and cultural – the sports place in modern Britain – welfare, integrity and funding,.
We know that we have been entrusted with leading the sport – we will continue to go about that with the same calm, considered approach to leadership, based upon analysis and argument, that Paul mentioned. We were entrusted with the task of leading change.
I am under no illusions about the level of responsibility that falls on the Board, the Executive and me when it comes to steering British Horseracing through the next twelve months. Racing has a vitally important economic impact but every bit as significant is the role it plays in the rural economy – that means people and jobs- and the fabric of British culture. In 2009 we are going to make sure we can measure that impact and keep track so decisions can be made when they need to be.
So, where are we focussing?
The Fixture List forms the foundations of our sport. In 2009 we will be continuing to implement the recommendations of the Fixture List Review, and rebranding exercise to which it led in many ways. Key actions will be to; ensure quality racing on Saturdays, and the differentiation of the “racing product”; Look at the cost/benefit of winter evenings; Sunday fixtures; the geographical spread of fixtures; Bank Holidays.
We have until July to resolve the 2010 fixture list, set against negotiations with Betting as to what fixtures, races, at particular times of the day, days of the week and times of the year, are really worth to them, the real value to their business, and therefore the right return to us,and whether it is worth us putting it on bearing in mind the many factors in play – the horse population, people and jobs, racecourse business. Under this we will have to address those related issues of betting on overseas racing in shops, and, crucially, machines and their relationship with our product.
Our systems need to meet the demands of what we know will be constantly shifting numbers and profile of horses in training; we will also proactively address fixture abandonment, to build on the huge collective efforts that we have seen over recent weeks.
We will review ownership structures to see if these cannot be made simpler.
British racing continues to be central to the European and International pattern; we set the standard when it comes to Handicapping. We will consolidate these positions in 2009, maximising our presence and influence in these areas to get the best for British racing.
And whilst addressing systems, during 2009 we will be taking a fundamental look at the arrangements with Weatherbys, to ensure the service the sport wants in the most cost effective way. The same applies to another very significant cost, the drug testing, analysis and research arrangements that were put in place some years ago with the Horseracing Forensic Laboratory when the Levy Board sold it.
Whilst we will focus on the care for the horse later, we must always be looking to the future and the people who make the sport happen. The British Horseracing Education Standards Trust (BHEST) and our own Industry Recruitment & Training ream are doing great work to introduce people to the idea of Racing, just as much a promotional initiative, as it is about jobs.
BHEST’s Racing to School – with 12,000 or so students that pass though the education programme each year –is hugely successful, and hugely rewarding programme for racing to have in its portfolio of activities. Building on the success of using horseracing as an educational tool, the Authority has developed an online educational resource; Raceday for Schools aimed at 11-16 year olds, Key Stage 3 and 4. It has been short listed for a Sports Industry Award in the ‘Best Digital Sport Marketing Campaign’.
Welfare and Training work, a huge cross – industry concern, will be more of a focus in 2009. We will continue to press for the allocation of racing related sleeper funds for these causes. We are also going to take an overall look at the insurance, pension and benefit arrangements that have grown up around the sport to see if things can be done better, together.
Across all we do, and across the sport, we will look to make sure that things are being done for a real reason, a reason that still exists, but just as importantly that the way things are being done now still make sense and are as efficient as they can be, and that cost is not being created unwittingly.
On the communications front, we will play a huge role in implementing the findings of the rebranding exercise that we announced at the Conference last year – we have been working very closely with Racing Enterprises and everyone else involved in this hugely collaborative and essential project, everyone in the sport, to make it happen.
We will build on the Daily Racing Bulletin launched last year, and look at all our publications and communications to make sure we are getting the best from them now, and how they can best sit in the context of the whole sport communication and promotional plan the rebranding will deliver. We can do more.
With the redevelopment of the website, britishhorseracing.com, – the first stage of which is launched today, – and there it is, the new home page, – we will be looking to maximise the use of new media channels available. The new homepage will feature a range of elements including a video player, radio, scrolling news bar and a rotating main news feature, to take advantage of the excellent news service we continue to receive from PA Sport. In addition there are several feature areas which we will use to highlight some of the fantastic content we have on the site.
We have added a new area to the site in the form of the Resource centre. This is a central point for all information we hold on the site which might be useful for press, the public and those involved in the industry- releases, the steward’s room, ratings, reports, instructions, guides, statistics, ….
This is In addition to the jump racing portal, gojumpracing.com, recently nominated for best promotion of a sport by a governing body – it is now at the very early stages of a redesign to expand the service to include the flat as we look forward to the start of the season.
I talked last year about creating an industry wide Community Strategy. In 2009 we will build on the foundations laid by the Racing Together programme, launched in August. We are working closely with Business in the Community, and are already well into the first major piece of work, a full audit of all the community programmes currently taking place at Britain’s racecourses.
To remind everyone, this is all about highlighting of the many exciting and successful initiatives going on around and through Racing, to make sure others in the sport know about them, to join them up where possible, to give us an accurate assessment of how much is already being done, and what more can be done. There are so many great schemes on a local level but there is a real opportunity to tell others outside the sport about them, to generate very positive publicity, to become part of partnerships to promote and market the sport.
As for other Promotional targets – building for the future in these challenging times – Universities and Tourism will be areas where we will focus. Working more with the many Government agencies who see Racing as a great asset for tourism within Britain, and for visitors from overseas. We are also looking ahead to 2012 and how Racing can contribute, and benefit. The same goes for the Ryder Cup – with Chepstow and the impressive new team at Ffos Las. We are also looking with others at a targeted approach to promoting ownership, even in these challenging times.
The Regulation of the sport, the smooth running of a day’s racing, is integral to our success.
A full restructure of racing’s rule book has taken place, and will be launched in July. We then move into reviewing all our areas of regulation to make sure, as I said, that it is still right, and we are going about things in the right way, and yes whether the cost of that regulation is justified.
An initial focus is the whole system of racecourse regulation, the licensing system for courses. The Great Leighs experience has thrown up many issues.
We will be implementing a five-year review of the medical safeguards currently in place, including the jockey’s concussions protocol, creating computerised jockeys records, and a general review of jockey’s health and welfare, which will be undertaken in conjunction with the new Professional Jockeys Association’s Medical Advisor.
One trend that we are keen to address is a rise in the number of jockeys in breach of ‘use of the whip’ rules. We will be working with the Professional Jockeys Association and others to get this right.
Other initiatives include rolling out the Stewarding Review findings; appointing a new Disciplinary Officer; and developing even more a real Raceday Team –better communication and improved working practices to improve the already high-quality service we must provide.
This includes establishing a central resource to ensure effective joined up action on, before and after raceday, involving stewards, the integrity team and handicappers.
Integrity is core. Last year I announced the review by Dame Elizabeth Neville, and her findings are being addressed. Most have, and her strong message to the sport was that the achievements of the sport in this area should be seen as a success, a source of pride at a job well done. But we cannot, the sport must not, rest on our laurels in this area.
In 2009 we introduced a new licensing process, cutting bureaucracy and red tape with a new ‘risk based’ license being made available to trainers and jockeys. We will be introducing measures to ensure that all involved in our sport are fit and proper; appropriate people to be associated with racing.
We will also conclude the roll out of the Inside Information Review, a targeted education programme for owners and stable staff opportunities.
As I mentioned, anti-doping procedures and drug testing practices will be reviewed, to ensure we maximise efficiency and get best value from the considerable spend we have in this area. And which deliver on our reputation as a clean sport, one that cares for the welfare of the horse.
With regard to ongoing integrity investigations, the announcement of charges todaybrings to a conclusion all live investigations that relate to races pre-2008. In moving forward, we have a clear target to complete the majority of investigations within 9 months, and all to be brought to charges within 12 months. This will be challenging. But in the important balance, investigations must be concluded more swiftly than they have in the past.
And lastly, before moving into an open session with Paul in the chair, Equine Welfare. There are three key strands: – prevention of disease, – on-course welfare – and the care of the thoroughbred after its racing career is over.
Disease is the single greatest risk to our sport. If there was an outbreak of highly infectious equine disease in Great Britain, racing would stop. We have gained experience and learnt valuable lessons from the Foot & Mouth crisis of recent times (in our first week of existence as the Authority). Government and the key agencies have confidence in our approach and track record.
Thank you for your very clear support Minister, and that of your Government colleagues.
We are doing everything that we should be to prevent any outbreak; but should one occur, plans have to be in place to react quickly to it.
On course welfare is of huge significance. The public must continue to take the overriding view that our sport is doing everything possible to care; ensure minimal risk of injury to those participating in it. And they do. The standards we set for ourselves go way beyond what is required of us by the Animal Welfare Act. No horse shall compete in Britain that has ever been trained on steroids. No horses are permitted to run on any drugs that mask injury, or pain.
We are leading the way on trying to establish a global harmonisation of the rules regarding use of drugs in horseracing. This is a huge task as it requires us to completely alter the perception of other racing nations, but we believe it is something that we, as the British Horseracing Authority, should be doing.
And thirdly, the care of thoroughbreds that have finished their racing careers is a particular area of focus for us in the next twelve months. We are conducting industry wide research into hard facts regarding the fate of our racehorses, and a full report will be forthcoming.
We constantly strive to achieve the highest standards possible for our sport, in every aspect of our business. The staff at the Authority are dedicated, hard-working, and passionate about racing.
Nobody is under any illusion that the next twelve months are going to be easy, – we are not, – but ultimately we are all working towards the same goal: to create the opportunity to stage the greatest possible show, and to share it with as many people, for them to enjoy in as many different ways as possible.
I have sought to outline how we, the Board and my team at the Authority, plan to work with you, to make this happen.