15 Jun 2000 Pre-2014 Releases

As I begin my presentation to you this morning, I am the first to recognise that, quite understandably, many of you will have come here today expecting to hear how BHB is getting on with the development of the Plan for the Future Funding of Racing following the planned abolition of the Levy Board. Let me hasten to reassure you that you will not be disappointed†_x0013_ but you will have to wait a little longer, until the BHB Chairman gets to his feet to serve the main course. In the meantime it falls to me to provide the hors ?_x0019_oeuvre. This particular hors ?_x0019_oeuvre comprises a number of different dishes, each representing a key area of BH?_x0019_s activity over the past year. And I use the term activity advisedly, for there has not been a more active and busier year in the Governing Authorit?_x0019_s history: a year in which the progress made on many fronts can give confidence to the industry and to Government that Racing can successfully meet the exciting challenges ahead.

This time last year the BHB and its constituents were engaged in a lively debate about the shape of this Millennium’s first Fixture List, as the expiry of the Five Year Levy Agreement opened up long-awaited opportunities to expand Racing on Sundays, the best-attended racing day of the week. However the discussions last summer confirmed what many had suspected for some time, that the ability of training yards to service a more consistent and attractive customer-friendly weekend programme was being severely constrained by staff recruitment and retention problems and working practices which were not designed for the changing environment in which Racing now operates. Racing is part of the leisure and entertainment business and, if it is to prosper and grow, it must organise itself in a way which enables it to provide entertainment when its customers want to be entertained.

But this does not give Racing the right or the excuse to ignore the legitimate concerns of one of its most valuable resources : our stable staff, without whose dedication, expertise and commitment this industry would simply not be able to function. That BHB recognises this inescapable fact as clearly as anyone, is evidenced by its establishment last summer, in the wake of the fixtures debate, of a Stable Staff Resources Study Group, under the chairmanship of BHB Director Hilary Burnham, which conducted the most comprehensive study ever undertaken into this vital area for our sport. We are very grateful to all those who gave their time to help with this important review, with the SLA’s Bill Adams and the NTF’s Peter Cundell and Grant Harris deserving special mention. These organisations are also to be congratulated on the significant initial steps which have been taken to improve pension provision for stable employees.

The Group’s authoritative report, published in April, contained a host of constructive recommendations, which are now being addressed by a small team, also under Hilary Burnham’s direction. As an immediate step, BHB is financing the provision of consultancy advice designed to facilitate the introduction of new working arrangements, which will put stable yards in a better position to service the sort of customer-friendly fixture list which the industry needs if it is to broaden its appeal to new customers and retain current ones. This consultancy work is already under way. It goes without saying however that this is only one of the many important staff-related issues which need to be addressed : in the medium to long term the success of trainers’ efforts to deal effectively with staff recruitment and retention problems will crucially depend on the success of simultaneous efforts elsewhere to secure a strong financial base for the industry generally.

Racing’s concern for the welfare of those working in the industry underlay another BHB and Industry Committee initiative last year, when a series of Health and Safety Seminars for trainers and stud managers were staged in various parts of the country. These seminars, also presided over by Hilary Burnham, were recognised as a model of good practice by no less an authority than the Cabinet Office and the BHB Manual has been accepted as the standard for the industry by the Health and Safety Executive, who commended the project as a model for demonstrating how cooperation between the HSE and an industry can be of benefit to both. Our thanks to all those who helped to make the seminars such a success, complementing the excellent staff training work being undertaken in both the British Racing School and Northern Racing College, coordinated by BHB’s training arm, the British Horseracing Training Board under the chairmanship of BHB Director Rhydian Morgan-Jones.

Our caring staff look after our horses : what about those who ride them? The nature of race-riding is such that jockeys have to live with the ever-present risk of injury, notwithstanding the continuous and energetic efforts of the Jockey Club and racecourses to improve safety standards for horse and rider. And, it isn’t only on the track itself that death and injury can strike, as the tragic accident at Newmarket, a fortnight ago today, so grimly reminded us. Racing shares in the grief for the loss of a courageous pilot, Patrick Mackey, while wishing Ray and Frankie, who give so much pleasure to so many people, the speediest of recoveries. Indeed we wish all participants in our great sport a safe, rewarding and enjoyable season.

Others we all hope will enjoy a safe season are our horses. Racing is a people and horse business : but a business where regrettably horses, as well as people, are exposed to risk. And I like to think that, as an industry, we are as caring about our horses as I have sought to demonstrate we are about our people. Much of the credit for this must go to the Jockey Club, to racecourses, welfare organisations and a very skilled veterinary profession, who all work tirelessly, in their various ways, to improve horse safety and welfare. There could have been no better example over the past year of the way in which the relevant organisations can co-ordinate their responses than at Aintree in April when, following the tragic deaths on the track, the Jockey Club’s Chief Veterinary Advisor, Peter Webbon, and RSPCA Equine Consultant, David Muir, acted decisively to reassure the public. While there is always more to be done and no room for complacency, Racing’s record in this important area is one of which the industry can be justly proud.

Racing also can take pride in the establishment of its new initiative, the Rehabilitation of Racehorses, to which the industry gave its whole-hearted support following a report by a representative BHB Working Group, chaired by recently-retired BHB Director Andrew Parker Bowles. This widely-welcomed initiative is already attracting significant funds, for which we are most grateful and which will be used to support centres dedicated to the reschooling and rehoming of former racehorses.

Much less welcome to the racing industry is the prospect of a ban on hunting. While BHB has never sought to take a position on the activity itself, it has been firm in its view that the abolition of hunting would be damaging to Racing in general, and National Hunt racing in particular. Working with the Countryside Alliance, we will continue to put that message across to those in a position to influence the final decision.

Of course, Racing and the thoroughbred are only one, albeit very important, part of the wider horse industry in this country : an industry which is a major employer, a major generator of revenue for the Government and a major contributor to the rural economy. That this is being increasingly recognised by Government is due in no small measure to the work of the British Horse Industry Confederation, on which the BHB and the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association represent the thoroughbred sector. Under the energetic leadership of the inaugural Chairman, Michael Clayton, the Confederation is increasingly being looked upon by Government as the focal point for communication between Westminster and Whitehall on the one hand and the wider horse world on the other. Only two days ago the BHIC made its first-ever presentation to the All Party Racing Group which, under the Joint Chairmanship of Richard Page and Lawrie Cunliffe, has continued to provide very welcome support and encouragement to the racing and breeding industries.

The BHIC’s representations to Government for a designated Government Department to protect and promote the horse industry coincided with two significant initiatives over the past year. First, the horse industry has been fortunate to secure the active interest and support of Baroness Hayman, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture. We welcome that strong interest and both BHB and the TBA, who have been very active on a number of issues of relevance to the breeding industry in this country, will continue to build on the firm foundations which Helene Hayman has already laid.

The second most welcome initiative was the establishment last year, within the Home Office, of the Horseracing Review Team, now the Horseracing Policy Team. We could not have wished for a more pragmatic and knowledgeable team to advise Mike O’Brien, who we look forward to welcoming here this morning and who has been so supportive of efforts to give Racing greater control of its own destiny. Under the overall direction of Elliot Grant, himself a keen horseman, the team of David Bawden, Clive Hawkswood and Jason Train, racing enthusiasts to a man, are already showing themselves most able and helpful guides through the complexities which surround the proposed sale of the Tote to Racing and the planning for the abolition of the Levy Board. Let me now say a brief word about each of those key issues.

The Government’s announcement in March that it had agreed in principle to sell the Tote to Racing marked the realisation of industry aspirations going back many years. The announcement was all the more satisfying because the Government made it clear that the ability of the racing industry, under BHB’s umbrella, and the Tote itself to come together to submit a constructive and realistic proposal for the acquisition of the Tote, was a key factor in Government’s decision to transfer this important asset to where Racing had long felt it rightfully belongs; and it is of course vital to the success of all our continuing dealings with Government that this unity within the racing industry is maintained. The racing industry and the Tote are now busy putting flesh on the bones of the proposal submitted last November in good time for the passage of the necessary legislation, hopefully in the Parliamentary session 2001/02. Further discussions will also be held with Government at the appropriate time about two key issues : the price and the related matter of the length of the exclusive licence. We do not however expect either of these issues to be settled until much nearer the time of the actual sale.

We hope that the Tote legislation will also embrace the provisions required in connection with the abolition of the Levy Board. Concurrently with BHB’s development of the Plan for the Future Funding of Racing, the Home Office and Treasury are considering, in consultation with the industry through BHB, how the Levy Board’s assets and key functions should most appropriately be dealt with following abolition. These discussions are only now beginning to progress beyond the fact-finding stage and consultation with key stakeholders will be undertaken before any firm proposals are put to Ministers later this year.

Another body due to put proposals to Ministers, although not until next summer, is the Gambling Review Body under the chairmanship of Sir Alan Budd. BHB will be submitting evidence to the Review Body next month, focusing, among other things, on some of the issues which were highlighted in its Financial Plan, published two and a half years ago. One such issue is what we loosely describe as “betting in pubs and clubs”, the introduction of which would increase accessibility for the punter, reduce overheads, and end the current distribution monopoly through licensed betting offices, potentially benefiting all parties – punters, Government, Racing and the Betting industry.

Another Government review of crucial importance to the Racing and Breeding Industry is scheduled to commence next year, when Customs and Excise will consider the future of the valuable VAT Registration Scheme for Racehorse Owners, introduced in 1993. In order to ensure that the industry puts itself in the best possible position to negotiate successfully the continuation of the Scheme, BHB has set up a small, expert Group under the Chairmanship of former Agriculture Minister Bernard Donoughue. Bernard has been a very supportive friend of Racing for many years and we are very grateful that he has agreed to give his time to this vital work.

At the heart of the VAT Scheme is owners’ sponsorship. Sponsorship in the broadest sense features prominently in the Three Year Marketing Plan for Racing and Betting, which was published earlier this week. The preparation of that Plan followed the very welcome decision by the Levy Board, with strong support from its Marketing Committee under Deputy Chairman Sir John Robb, to allocate significant central funds to marketing, which it rightly regards as critical to the further development of a healthy and successful sport. Racing’s contribution to the Plan was developed and co-ordinated by Teresa Cash who, in the last twelve months has acted as external consultant, then in-house consultant and now, I am delighted to say, as our fully-fledged Marketing Director. I hope that this time next year there will be significant progress to report on the implementation of the national marketing strategy, notwithstanding that the real benefits are likely only to be measurable over the longer term. In the meantime, we look forward to a strong dose of creativity and innovation.

And, what could be more creative and innovative than the prospect of the first brand-new racecourses for over 70 years. After a period of rigorous analysis and review, masterminded by BHB Racing Director Paul Greeves, the Board in March agreed in principle to allocate fixtures in 2002 to two new tracks, each with very different characteristics – a floodlit All Weather Track at London City in the North East sector of Greater London, and a turf track at Pembrey in South Wales. There is still some way to go before either track becomes a reality: there are detailed fixture issues to be decided in both cases and, in the case of London City, major planning matters to be resolved. Racing generally will, in our judgement, benefit from the introduction of both these new courses and BHB will provide all appropriate support and assistance to enable the promoters’ dreams to be realised.

From promoters to punters, without whom Racing’s finances would be in a very sorry state indeed. BHB welcomed and supported the Pitch Reforms introduced by the Levy Board through the National Joint Pitch Council over the last eighteen months or so, recognising the benefits accruing to the customer, the punter, from these new initiatives. More recently however the revised procedures for the determination of starting prices introduced by the SP Executive have attracted unfavourable attention from several commentators, some of whom are with us here this morning. While BHB has no power formally to intervene, we all have a responsibility to have regard to the interests of those who are making a major financial contribution to our sport. This is as much as anything a matter of perception. The SPs should be, and should be seen to be determined in a transparent, independent manner and those currently charged with this responsibility must satisfy themselves on these counts. The invitation from the SP Executive to the NJPC to discuss the issues involved and the SP Executive’s decision to commission an independent survey from a leading firm of accountants are welcome first steps in this context.

The issue of public perception has also reared its head recently in another context – that of jockeys’ sponsorship. The announcement of a sponsorship deal between a top jockey and a leading bookmaker, since aborted, stimulated a lively debate about the implications of such deals for the perception of our sport’s integrity. This debate coincided with the emergence of serious integrity concerns in other sports.

After due consideration the Board has decided that its Code of Conduct should be amended to prohibit the sponsorship of jockeys by bookmakers, including the Tote. It has further decided that it would be inappropriate to distinguish in this context between bookmaker sponsorship of jockeys and bookmaker sponsorship of trainers and owners under the SFRO Scheme, particularly as it is of course the jockey who actually carries the owner’s sponsor’s logo. This will therefore also be prohibited. Any existing contracts will be honoured and interested parties will be consulted on the detailed changes which are required to the wording of the Codes. I should stress however that this has everything to do with perception, and should in no way be taken as any reflection whatsoever on the integrity of any individual owner, trainer or jockey, or of any individual bookmaker.

In my presentation this morning, I have sought to highlight some of the activities which have made the past twelve months particularly busy ones for BHB, as well as drawing attention to some of the significant changes which are in prospect as a result of recent Government announcements and initiatives. As the Governing Authority for the industry, BHB itself has to be ready to adapt its own organisation to the changing external environment. Last month’s announcement of an imminent restructuring of the Executive, with a high-level focus on increasing commercialism, showed that the Board is not only ready, but willing to make the necessary changes. The Board’s Managing Director designate, Chris Reynolds, who comes to racing with impeccable marketing, sport and leisure and commercial credentials, is here with us today, and will, I hope, get the opportunity to meet several of you at lunch later on. We are all much looking forward to his joining the senior executive team on 3rd July, six weeks or so before we welcome our second senior acquisition, Grant Harris, who is also here today and who after many successful years at the NTF, comes to us in mid-August as Assistant Racing Director. BHB goes literally from strength to strength.

It is very appropriate that we should again be meeting together today in the Telford Theatre. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that Thomas Telford was one of this country’s most talented civil engineers, specialising in bridges, roads and canals. There is today another engineering project as challenging as some of Telford’s most awe-inspiring creations. I refer of course to the Plan for the Future Funding of Racing. Here to tell you all about this vital subject is the Chairman of the BHB, Peter Savill.