Excerpt from British Horseracing Authority Chairman Paul Roy’s speech at the annual dinner of the All Party Racing and Bloodstock Industries Group in the House of Commons on 14 July 2008
Racing still awaits a decision from the Government on the sale of the Tote. There’s a lot of posturing that’s gone on and it seems that almost everyone’s got a view here whether they’re inside or outside Racing. However, one thing we all agree —— what the sport wants now is an end to the constant speculation and upheaval and a real say in the final decision-making process.
Of course, the whole process has been too drawn out and the goalposts have shifted on many occasions. It all makes depressing reading for Racing and I’m sure it does for the Government too. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Labour’s manifesto in 2001 pledged to sell the Tote to Racing “to allow it to compete commercially, with all long-term profits invested in the sport”.
However, Minister. We should be realists. Although I’m sure there’s been lots of expressions of interest in the Tote and various proposals from break-up to full acquisition; in 35 years in the City I’ve never seen the markets in such disarray and financial institutions under so much pressure. I think we’ve all learnt that you shouldn’t believe everything that investment banks tell you. Although Government may not wish to be reminded of Racing’s previous bids the fact is that current valuations are shot to pieces and the trading outlook is grim. If the best option for the Tote and Racing is not to sell now then we’ll endorse that. Perhaps a period of certainty, giving a new Chairman and management the chance to focus fully on the business, may be what’s best for all concerned. We’ll support the best decision for Racing, and that may indeed be no sale just now.
If the decision is that the Tote is to be sold shortly, then important decisions will need to be made about how 50% of the proceeds – and we firmly believe these should be the gross proceeds – are to be redistributed to Racing. That’s a discussion you should have with all of Racing through the BHA. You know we’ve looked at and promoted a Racing Foundation concept. This would enable the proceeds from a sale to be distributed efficiently and quickly, with a Racing body working to a set of principles that would meet state aid requirements.
None of that should preclude Racing’s close involvement in any acquisition of the Tote going forward.
Also, the pool betting operation is of critical concern to Racing, far beyond the emotional and historical attachment that exists. Anyone owning the pool operation will have to work extremely closely with the sport – racecourses in particular – to develop the business. International co-mingling is of ever-growing importance. Under no circumstances should any potential buyer be allowed to relocate the remote operations offshore.