Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
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The group of eminent persons said in a statement that there was an “appetite for fundamental change”.
Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
By Bill Barber, Industry Editor
Radical changes in British racing may be on the way after the sport’s leadership spoke of the need for “significant innovation in the way racing is presented” after two days of strategy talks that ended on Wednesday night.
The group of eminent people said in a statement that there was an “appetite for a fundamental change” in the way the race is organized, presented and promoted starting in 2024.
In the short term, they also agreed to develop a package of measures to improve the sport’s competitiveness next year.
However, while there was consensus on the need for changes to enable long-term improvements, no detailed proposals were announced.
A statement issued after the summit read: “A very positive meeting took place in which there was a common acceptance of the challenges facing the sport and agreement on the need to work together to resolve them. The industry leaders present were unanimous in the need for serious and radical changes to make long-term improvements to the industry.
“The result is agreement on focus areas for a strategy that will be developed in the coming months, supported by all parties who have agreed to share data to inform decision-making, with the aim of building a sustainable model for British racing and identifying areas of growth.”
The statement did not mention details of measures considered for 2023, although areas of interest will include race programme, scheduling and timing, along with expanding initiatives such as flexible race programming.
“There was also agreement that action was needed to start addressing competitiveness in the short term, and a package of measures would be developed to achieve this goal,” she said.
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Joe Summers Smith: President of BHA
In the long term, the group said the sport’s strategy should include a focus on “significant innovation” in the way racing is presented, “particularly our best races,” with the goal of improving competitiveness and increasing attendance, ownership and supply of horses.
Other areas of focus include better use of data, improving the ownership experience and the well-being of horses and participants.
Representatives of BHA, Great British Racing (GBR), Thoroughbred Group (TG), Racecourse Association (RCA) and racetrack met at London’s Arundel House for two days of talks in hopes of setting the future direction of the sport.
They also heard a presentation from former British Racing Council Chairman Peter Saville – who led a group of industry figures who over the summer put forward their own set of proposals to improve competitiveness and field sizes – as well as considering other requests.
The talks took place against a backdrop of growing industry concerns including internationally uncompetitive prize money, bleeding equine talent overseas, rising corporate costs and declining field and attendance volumes.
There has been criticism of the lack of urgency in addressing these issues, especially after a controversial suspension of proposals earlier this year to reduce the number of races in the 2023 programme, but in the lead up to the talks, the sport was warned not to. Anticipate a fully configured plan for the coming years.
Further rounds of consultations are planned, with “ongoing discussions” scheduled with the broader racing industry as well as the betting and broadcasting industries, the Levy Board and the Racing Foundation.
It is hoped that changes to the British racing management structure will be agreed in October to support the development of the industry strategy led by the BHA.
BHA created a new strategy and change department earlier this year with responsibility for industry strategy development, program management, planning and project delivery.
Areas of focus include, but are not limited to:
- Organize the race product, including match list and race program
- Display and promote the most prominent sporting events
- Ensure that promotional functions for sports are organized and resourced properly
- Using data to better understand customer needs and to ensure that industry decisions are based on evidence
- Work with bookmakers, broadcasters and other partners to improve growth
- Improving the owner’s experience and encouraging increased investment in ownership, particularly through affordable investment
- Continuing focus on horse care
- Investing in our people, employment, wellbeing, development, employee retention, diversity and inclusion
- Integrity and organization
- environmental sustainability
List of attendees over the two days
BHA / GBR
Julie Harrington: CEO of BHA
David Jones: Independent Senior Director at BHA
Ruth Quinn: Director of Racing and International Racing Development at BHA
Joe Summers Smith: BHA Chair
Road Street: CEO of JBR
Richard Wyman: Chief Operating Officer at BHA
David Armstrong: CEO of RCA
Ilona Barnett: RCA Board Member/Managing Member at Stratford Racecourse, representing small independent racecourses
Martin Crodas: CEO of Arena Racing Company
William Derby: CEO of York Racecourse, representing large independent racetracks
Jonjo Sanderson: RCA Board Member/CEO of Wetherby Racecourse, representing small independent racetracks
Neven Troisdal: CEO of Jockey Club
Wilf Walsh: RCA chair
Paul Johnson: CEO of the National Coaches Association
Charlie Leverton: CEO of the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA)
George McGrath: CEO of the National Racing Association
Ian McMahon: CEO, Professional Knights Association
Charlie Parker: President of TG and President of ROA
Claire Shepard: Thoroughbred Breeders Association chief executive officer
The session was moderated by BHA Director of Strategy and Change Alison Intiknap, along with advisor Alan Switzer.
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First published at 7:19 PM on Sep 21, 2022