Radical Overhaul of Racing Fixtures Urgently Required
The new Racehorse Owners Association President today called for a drastic overhaul of horse racing's fixture list and the creation of three tiers for the sport.
Rachel Hood, whose radical action plan results from the massive drop in funding of prize-money from the Levy, said: "We must take matters into our own hands in dealing with problems that are getting worse by the day."
Making her inaugural speech as President at the ROA's annual general meeting in London, she said that, while the number of programmed fixtures had increased by 25 per cent over the last ten years, the Levy's budgeted contribution to prize-money was now lower.
Owners were being badly affected because new media rights being paid by bookmakers to racecourses were not matching the decline in the Levy and racecourses were not obliged to pay a proportion of their new income into prize-money.
"Our situation demands immediate and radical solutions," she told the audience of ROA members and racing industry leaders.
"It demands that the so-called fixture criteria - which has coincided with a catastrophic decline in the Levy - is discontinued. It demands we devise a fixture list that is based primarily on the best the sport has to offer, that the Levy is spent almost entirely on sustaining these fixtures and that fixtures which cater for very moderate horses should be financed by the betting industry."
Rachel Hood suggested that jump racing needed only "fine tuning", but that the Flat required radical measures. Under her plan, 'Premier' and 'Middle' tier fixtures would have to comply with the prize-money tariffs of the Horsemen's Group as well as with race planning requirements. There would be contractual agreements between the racecourses, which would bid for fixtures, and the Horsemen.
"For 'Third' tier fixtures," she said, "racecourses would be able to maximise their attendances by putting on fixtures on any days and times of their choice. There would be no restrictions on programming and race type and no prize-money stipulations. Unfettered market forces would prevail within the 'Third' tier."
The ROA President concluded: "Such a system would not only protect the unique heritage of British racing, it would enhance it. It would preserve the basic structure of the fixture list and allow important punctuation points - the festival meetings - within the racing year to be built upon. It would create a perfect climate for the QIPCO-sponsored British Champions Series to flourish."
Earlier, the outgoing ROA President Paul Dixon had announced that the ROA would be "exploring all avenues" to challenge the Government's sale of the Tote to Betfred by way of a judicial review.
"The Government owes British racing a massive good turn for the harm it has done in selling the pool betting right to a bookmaker," he said. "They now have to act quickly to ensure new legislation is passed either to modernise the Levy or replace it with a watertight rights-based scheme."
Mr Dixon also hailed the success of the Horsemen's Group and its prize-money tariffs.
"The Horsemen's tariff has been one of the best innovations within the industry for a long time. Since its introduction, the tariff has been responsible for adding nearly £7 million to prize-money," he said.
Mr Dixon confirmed that he would remain as an ROA Council member - "on the backbenches" - as well as being Chairman of the Horsemen's Group and a member of the Levy Board.
FOUR NEW MEMBERS ELECTED TO ROA COUNCIL
THE ROA Council has four new members following the 2011 election, the first ever held under a single transferable voting system.
Outgoing Honorary Treasurer Steven Astaire and current incumbents Jeremy Gompertz, who topped the poll on the first round of the ballot, and Stephen Smith were re-elected.
Joining them on the 19-strong Council are newly elected Sheila Bailey, Will Duff Gordon, Paul Duffy and Alan Pickering CBE.
It was Mr Pickering's fifth attempt to be elected. Having narrowly missed out before, he has finally succeeded.
In contrast, the 2011 election was charity professional Mrs Bailey's first bid. She became the ROA's 7,000th member six years ago.
Will Duff Gordon, who secured election at the second attempt after standing 12 months ago, becomes - at 33 years old - the youngest member of the Council.
Paul Duffy, also contesting his first election and an owner for 12 years, runs the partnership of Hennessy Gold Cup winner Diamond Harry.
Incoming ROA President Rachel Hood said: "I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the seven successful candidates. Steven Astaire, Jeremy Gompertz and Stephen Smith have contributed greatly to the ROA, while I welcome Sheila Bailey, Will Duff Gordon, Paul Duffy and Alan Pickering as new members of the Council. Alan especially has proved that persistence and determination do pay off!"
The election results were announced at the ROA's annual general meeting in London on Thursday 23 June.
New ROA Council
Rachel Hood - President
Tony Hirschfeld - Vice-President
Michael Harris - Chief Executive
Will Duff Gordon
Sir Eric Parker
Alan Pickering CBE
Professor David Silk
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