As you know, the BHB Board met yesterday afternoon and discussed the Panorama programme during the meeting. You will have seen the Press Release which the Board has put out.
I would like to add just four observations of my own but I must make it clear that these are my views and not necessarily those of the Board.
- I have no doubt that the programme was an embarrassment for Racing and in particular the Jockey Club. The sport’s public image has unquestionably been damaged – despite the fact that the programme was neither fair nor balanced in its portrayal.
- I believe Panorama made a good case that more vigour needs to be shown to stamp out questionable practices.
- Jeremy Phipps made some serious errors of judgement to put himself in the position he did and had no choice but to resign. In my opinion, he should have done so the day he was interviewed by Panorama.
- The programme left viewers with two overriding perceptions which are simply not accurate:
- First, it left the casual viewer believing that Racing is riddled with corruption when the truth is that it is by and large clean.
- Second, the public have the perception that Racing is governed by a group of people living in a timewarp when the truth is that the Jockey Club is highly respected throughout the world of international racing; that their regulatory work in the area of setting rules, licensing and registration, standards of veterinary and medical care, discipline and stewarding is exemplary; and that their hands have frequently been tied by the under-regulation of betting and the fact that corrupt behaviour in racing is, in some instances, not a criminal offence. The betting environment is changing rapidly and regulation must keep pace.
That is all that I wish to say about Panorama. It is more important that we learn from the experience and focus on where we go from here. I am passionate about this sport and I want to do everything I can to bring more people into the sport rather than turn them away. So where do we go from here?
Effective regulation is the bedrock of a successful racing industry. Without it, the many initiatives which are being taken to modernise, develop and popularise our sport will be severely constrained. That is why, in order to protect and promote the public image of racing, which was one of the reasons why BHB was created, it is vital that the right structure is in place going forward.
As you know, the future structure of British Racing and how it is governed is part of the Terms of Reference for the Racing Review Committee which I am chairing.
One of my main goals when I became BHB Chairman was to modernise the sport. As requested by Government, we have introduced a commercial relationship with the betting industry so that the Levy can be abolished; we have had one restructure of the BHB Board and approved another; we have modernised the BHB Executive and structured BHB in a more commercial way. The strides this industry has made in the past four years have been quite dramatic.
That modernisation is ongoing and the Racing Review will be looking, amongst many other things, at the relationship between the governance, regulation, and commercial responsibilities for racing and how they should interface. I suspect that the recommendations that emerge will be the same as would have emerged if Panorama had not taken place.
We currently have, effectively, two Governing Bodies – BHB and the Jockey Club – whereas all other sports and racing jurisdictions have just one. In order to modernise our structure, I believe that we need to merge the governance and regulatory responsibilities of the two governing bodies into one.
That is not to say that the BHB Board will take over regulation. I firmly believe that the regulatory function needs to operate independently, even if under the same umbrella, and it may well be that we also need a greater separation of governance and commercial functions within the BHB.
What we do need is a simplification, rationalisation and modernisation of our structure in order that we can operate more effectively.
How this is managed will be a matter for the Racing Review Committee to recommend to the BHB Board. It will also be a matter for considerable discussion between BHB and the Jockey Club over the next few months. Christopher Spence and I have already talked about the principles of a way forward but it is far too early to be talking specifics.
What Christopher Spence and I have agreed is that the most troublesome area of regulation is the Security function. We have therefore decided to have a joint BHB/Jockey Club review of this area which will begin immediately. We would hope to produce a report by early next year.