British Horseracing Conference
25th February 2008
Nic Coward, Chief Executive, British Horseracing Authority
A very good morning to all of you.
In the next 15 or so minutes I will set out what we’ve been up to since we started at the end of July last year, and our plans for the future: what we’re going to do for the best for the whole sport, and to ensure that British Horseracing continues to be – and be seen as – the best in the world.
In the stats that you saw on the screen, in the annual review and in the video, you can get a fair picture of the breadth and depth of the sport. Much of what you have just seen was from the last week or so during which – in addition to some great action on the racecourse, and the day to day in yards across the country – we have seen the fantastic Stud and Stable Staff Awards, the green light to the first new racecourse in Britain for over 80 years, and British Racing helping the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland.
The new Board and I actually started almost a year ago, with the first task of bringing together the Horseracing Regulatory Authority and British Horseracing Board into one new organisation. To create a new, fit-for-purpose governing body for the sport. The enthusiasm and appetite of the Board and the staff and our members for change has been fantastic.
We know what we’re here to do for the sport, and we know how we will go about it.
For our part, we’ve already gone through major organisational change, simplifying the executive structure from 12 to 6 reporting lines ,and teams changing to reflect what we are here to do.
Our role is
– to provide the most compelling racing in the world
– to promote the best for the racehorse
– to ensure the highest standards for the sport and participants, at and away from the racecourse
– to represent and promote the best of the sport
– to ensure the best possible administration and services for the sport
– to be a world leader in our raceday operations and regulation]
Everyone has an opinion in racing. It’s our job to marshal those opinions, to get what we think is the right answer. To be a reality-check, sometimes to be blunt in our assessment of how things are and what really needs to happen. Always on the basis, wherever we can, of fact, research, consultation, hard-headed analysis – although don’t think that the passion that characterises the sport is completely missing from the debate. Not everyone will agree with the outcomes, but events like today are all part of us listening and being accountable. About trust.
So what are our conclusions, what are our plans, how do we think things need to look in 2010 and beyond?
We know what the challenges are – be they organisational, funding, sporting, cultural/social – racing’s place in modern Britain – welfare – both horse and human, the people we need to make the sport happen – integrity and our relationship with betting.
We also know we’ll be judged by our shareholders – courses, owners, breeders, jockeys, trainers, stable staff – judged by key measurables: judged by the strength of our financial basis; by how much the public, Government and others see us as important to the nation, and as a leading sport; by how well-managed, efficient, effective and safe we are: by how we care for the welfare of all in the sport.
Whatever the reality, there was a perception that the sport’s money was perhaps being spent on things that it shouldn’t. We are and will be completely open with our shareholders about what we are spending the sport’s money on – in 2008 we will run at the same rate as 2007, despite the significantly increased fixture list and inflation. The shareholders, this is crucial to us, know what our plans are and why we’re doing it.
Turning now to some of those challenges, and opportunities.
In my first weeks, and Paul’s, at a whole series of meetings, there was one constant “You – or We – have got to sort out the Fixture List”. This was based on sincerely felt and very forceful opinion. It was clearly a major issue – but we had to go about it in a different way. The Fixture List Review process has generate a massive amount of information from all quarters – including some key players on the betting side, as well as sponsors, and the major broadcasters who might not ordinarily have been engaged. We needed to know what people want,. Many of you here provided submissions and shared analysis with us.
Some key themes are:
• The success of Britain’s quality product is vital to the sport’s wellbeing with the top 10% of fixtures generating 45% of the total revenue for all fixtures
• Saturday is racing’s ‘shop window’ from most perspectives, including racegoers, broadcasters, sponsors and off-course punters
• We have to differentiate, create a narrative.
• If the 10 weakest Saturdays were brought up to the level of an average Saturday, an additional £2.8m of profit before prize money could be generated
• Sunday racing is, on average, the least profitable day and is also the weakest for levy generation
• At certain times of the year evening fixtures generate above average racecourse revenues however they tend to generate just 60% of the betting activity of afternoon fixtures
• Providing opportunities for the most moderate horses is contributing towards the creation of less attractive sporting product, not assisting with tackling the very real problem of overproduction, and having a detrimental impact on the prize money return to British owners
• Geographical clashes are becoming increasingly frequent with, for example, 53 afternoons with no racing in the northern half of the country.
That does not tell anything like the full story of course.
There is an enormous amount of detailed research and analysis, which the Board will consider in a full report at its meeting next month together with proposals as to how each issue should be addressed, and also the funding structure that sits behind it.
There are two people I must mention whose knowledge and expertise would have been of immense value in the review: Nigel Clark and Tristram Ricketts gave so much to the sport. We miss them both, professionally, but, in particular, because of the people they were. Always supportive and encouraging and it was a pleasure for me personally to know them, if only for a regrettably short time.
Both Tristram and Nigel were great enthusiasts for the sport of racing as well as important figures in its politics. As it should be for all of us now, the goal was more people talking about racing – every aspect of the sport – watching Racing, betting on racing, getting involved in racing – they were key figures in the “Racing Network”, always looking to widening its appeal.
We know what our role is in promoting the sport…not marketing as was made very clear from day one.
Despite this lingering issue, we are pulling together a plan for the sport to promote Racing’s stars and stories, the setting, the many sub-plots – to demystify racing. And this is deliberately to complement and sit alongside the work of, say, courses and the sport’s key partners – and not to duplicate. For instance, we are working with Visit Britain and key players to promote racing in summer months. Without home nation participation – not just England as Scottish Racing colleagues always remind me – in Euro 2008, the Summer Card is a big chance for racing to capitalise – and now we have the Yorkshire Festival sitting alongside Racing’s established big moments.
The Kauto Star/ Denman clash will be a great moment. It is already everywhere, all over the papers and on TV and radio, and that’s before Channel 4 have launched their big promotional push, alongside all that Cheltenham, Jockey Club Racecourses, the Tote, bookmakers big and small across the country, Betfair and 5 Live will be doing.
And then we’ll be into the build up to Aintree, with John Smith’s and the BBC getting into full swing.
We have our part to play, not least through the Order of Merit promotional work, but there is other vitally important work away from the big moments. We are creating an innovative programme for 11-16 year olds as part of the school curriculum. Bringing racing into the classroom to complement the Racing to School initiative to get kids out of the classroom and onto a racecourse.
We now have shareholder approval to carry out a sport-wide branding exercise to be led by David and the racing promotions group – starting at the quality end, we need to join up all the fantastic moments across the sport. A link and narrative to capture and convey the thrill, fun, flavour, aspiration of racing – to differentiate to an ever-busier consumer what really matters, and why. Something for broadcasters and sponsors to support and partner with. And all this in a language that can mean something to the newcomer, as well as satisfying the enthusiast.
Racing does so much great work in the community – but we can do more and certainly explain more forcefully what we are doing, something I feel very strongly about. We need to be, and to be seen as important to modern Britain – this is about jobs, training, the rural economy, the environment, volunteering, good causes and charity. The fantastic Stud and Stable Staff Awards, the Northern Racing College and the British Racing School, the National Stud (under new owners) all show what the sport can do and you can be proud of.
It’s the job of Morag Gray’s new Welfare and Training Group to address a diverse range of issues and get people pulling together behind the same plan so we can make the best use of resources.
A large part of our role is about making sure British Racing’s world-leading reputation for standards and regulation at and away from the racecourse stays just that.
We have already started to look at every aspect of our raceday operations and the processes that follow, including stewarding and the disciplinary system to deal with ensuring set standards set for behaviour at the course are adhered to.
It’s through consultation now that we as the sport’s regulator have to determine what those standards are – and through education, prevention, deterrence, investigation and, where necessary, disciplinary action we – for the whole sport – will carry out our role – without fear or favour, fairly, and to the highest standards of regulation. All that we do will be based on risk assessment, and will be intelligence-led.
One major project is a complete rethink of the licensing system. We are looking to replace the annual licence renewal with a system that focuses on training, standards and compliance. We will have also a new approach to what it means to be a ‘fit and proper’ participant in the sport, whether as jockey, trainer or owner.
You saw this new approach in the focus on education in the Inside Information roll out. A programme that we think is making a difference.
In relation to protecting the integrity of the sport, Racing has rightly stressed that the sport’s objectives will only be achieved if its – our – work in relation to people involved in the sport, is backed up by the laws of the land and a will to enforce them by police and regulators. We have a really strong relationship with the Gambling Commission – and a big thank you to Brian Pomeroy, Jenny Williams and all of the team at the Commission. I am looking forward to hearing what Brian has to say later.
Clear protocols on intelligence exchange, investigation of cases, and who will take what action under Rules, the Commission Codes and the Gambling Act is one of the vitally important matters on which Dame Elizabeth Neville will be reporting in a few weeks’ time.
The terms of reference of the review started in late Autumn, later added to, are
• To carry out a Post Implementation Review of the Recommendations of the 2003 Security Review with a view to assessing how such measures have protected the integrity of racing.
• Identify areas for development to improve the Integrity Services Department’s role in protecting the integrity of racing.
• Review relevant Rules of Racing and penalties connected with integrity issues.
• Assess the role and procedures that racing and sports governing bodies should adopt when dealing with matters that may involve breaches of the criminal law as well as its own rules in relation to corruption connected with betting.
• To consider all of the above in the light of the City Of London proceedings.
Whatever her review says, and recommends, we will make public, and we will act.
As usual, we will shortly be announcing the penalties that will apply for the next 12 months for all offences. We also await Dame Elizabeth’s views on penalties for integrity breaches, and another issue that we are taking separately is as part of our entire policy in relation to the use of the whip.
This is all in the context of the huge task we are undertaking to rewrite the Rules in time for publication in 2009, as well as new clear and open consultation processes on Rule issues, as opposed to the more ad hoc approach that was the norm.
During last year the rules were made available on britishhorseracing.com. I think the website as a whole is a great asset for the sport – but it is beginning to creak and this year we will be overhauling it in 2008.
Disease is the biggest single risk that our sport faces. Everything could stop, completely, as we saw from the recent experience of Australia. Again, this requires a multi-agency approach, not just at UK but EU level – to ensure we understand the full extent of the threats, have the best available information, and the plans in place. The Foot and Mouth outbreak happened in our first week – I think our response, leading the sports response – was just as it should be – thorough, professional, constantly communicating.
Promoting the best care for the thoroughbred, throughout their life in racing and beyond, is key – our comprehensive welfare policy will address all the issues, openly, including the facts gleaned from our comprehensive research. We also need to lead worldwide harmonisation in relation to what is allowed, and what is not, in terms of substances and techniques. We do not have a right to call ourselves a global sport if we cannot get that sorted.
Meanwhile, the work to ensure that we are running as efficiently and effectively as possible will continue. A major task over the next 2 years is to ensure that we have the best possible systems in place – making best use of technology across all operations from raceday and stewarding, to licensing, to race planning – our aim has to be paperless administration.
All of this – the running of the sport – is funded by the sport through our Levy income.
Gerry, I am very much looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the very necessary fundamental review you announced last week. I know it will not be a surprise to you that we are full of ideas, research, analysis, and yes, considerable energy.
We were set up to bring the sport together, to speak with one voice, to lead, to bring something new, and on the Levy that is exactly what we have done.
For a decade or more Racing has advocated that the Levy should be replaced, and that remains our position.
The debate now has to be about addressing what Racing is worth to betting operators of all kinds – bookmakers, online operators, exchanges – in our unique market environment. What is the value of each to the other; and it has to be about adding value. The Levy process has so patently failed to deal with this modern reality. We have made this case in our submission – and we stand by it.
Racing and betting have grown up with each other, as is the same across the world. But whereas others have state monopolies to ensure that any bet delivers a substantial return to the sport, we have the Levy. Going forward, the payback from anyone who wants to offer a bet on racing has to be under a modernised Levy, or under a new piece of law.
Minister, the Government played a significant role in helping the sport to create the Authority as a modern, fit for purpose governing body. The sport is now looking to you to lead the next stage of the modernisation process in addressing all of the anachronisms that the Levy represents. Going forward, whichever mechanism for a return from betting to racing is adopted, we look to you to ensure that racing alone decides what to do with its money, as racing, betting and Government had all agreed would be the case before the enforced extension of the Levy Board’s life .
Racing and Government will then be able to complete the modernisation task leaving us to run the sport ourselves – make our own decisions on the basis of the sport’s priorites on the basis of real information, and also simplify the incredibly complex redistribution mechanisms that are the product of a bygone age.
We believe that the sport has a really strong future, and a massive contribution to make.
That’s what I, my team, the Board believe we are here to do for you. It’s what the sport wants, and it’s what we’re going to get on with. Thank you.