Today is my first full day at 151 Shaftesbury Avenue, and I wanted to set out my priorities for the coming months.
I have been recruited as Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). The role and remit of the BHA has been agreed by the industry, and despite the fact that there is still some way to go before the organisation itself is formally constituted, we can now begin to bring it to life.
The BHA represents a fresh start. Our role is to regulate, promote and represent Racing. Our challenge is to make sure that everything we do meets one simple test – what is best for British Racing.
Over recent weeks I have already had the opportunity to meet with the staff of BHB and HRA, members of the new BHA board and others within the industry. I have been struck immediately by the passion and commitment of everyone I have met, and by the enthusiasm for the new approach the BHA represents. I feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity and am looking forward to working to bring it to life.
It is early days, but I am clear about the approach we have to take to earn the trust and respect of our stakeholders. We will be:
Strong – providing leadership, taking tough decisions where they are needed
Independent – acting with integrity, in the best interests of Racing as a whole
Responsive – listening and consulting, making sure we understand the issues
Challenging – asking hard questions, of others and ourselves
Open – having the confidence to explain what we think, and why
Dynamic – being professional, innovative and focused, delivering a quality service
This leads on to my priorities for the first few months.
The first is getting the BHA fully up and running as soon as possible, and into the best possible shape.
The industry, and in particular the BHB and HRA staff, have been living with the question of when the BHA will actually start for a considerable time. It is frustrating, but the good news is that the major uncertainties are clearing. The At The Races judgment and the Government’s announcement on the Levy have both helped. The pension remains the single biggest hurdle to constituting the BHA. A formal submission is with the pensions regulator, and we are due to hear from them within weeks.
In the meantime, the HRA and BHB do of course continue as now, and I have formally taken on the role of Chief Executive of each organisation.
In the coming weeks we will also address how we present ourselves to the wider world, including our corporate identity and style. I see having britishhorseracing.com as a real asset. It says much more about who we are and what we do than yet another acronym. So we will look again at how to get the best from this.
At the same time, I plan to spend as much time as possible in the first few months continuing to meet as many people as possible from across the industry. I want to listen directly to their views on the issues, the challenges, and the opportunities.
In time, we will launch a more structured consultation process, covering all our work, the key issues and our ways of operating.
In addition to canvassing views within the industry, we need to have a better understanding of what people outside the immediate Racing world think – for instance government and regulators, in their many forms at both national and local level, media, other sports, charities and pressure groups, broadcasters, and sponsors. We also have to find out what the wider public think – racegoers and punters, and even people who say they have no interest at all in Racing.
All of this work will feed into the development of our strategic plan and key objectives which we will publish in the second half of the year.
Thirdly, while we are establishing the BHA’s role and remit, the important regulatory and governance business of Racing continues.
In the coming weeks we will make the BHA’s case to the Levy Board’s own strategic review. This is a priority for the new board, alongside the 2008 fixture process. On the regulatory side, we will be carrying out a fundamental review of the Rule Book, and bringing forward our views on what constitutes “inside information”, and what this means for everyone in the industry.
An early priority is to review how we can best address welfare issues across all our operations. This applies to all participants, both people and horses. Promoting the highest standards of welfare will be a core principle of the BHA.
Tuesday’s successful Stud and Stable Staff Awards also drove home the need for us to have a coherent and joined-up approach to training and education, and the power of Racing to take such a positive hold over people’s lives.
All of this is a busy and stretching agenda. I am very excited about it, and am looking forward to working to make it happen.