Bittar Sweet Appointment

So the white smoke appears above High Holborn and a new British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Chief Executive is announced as the job goes to 41 year old Australian Paul Bittar.

Apparently Bittar was one of forty candidates to be considered for the role and looking at his pedigree he seems as suitable a candidate as many.

Being called Paul is obviously a big advantage, as a number of senior members of the BHA seem to share that illustrious forename. Indeed I am, in one way, surprised that being called Paul I have not been approached myself. On the other hand the reason for the lack of call is also obvious as towing a party line has never been a strong point of mine and frankly they would not be able to afford me anyway.

The press release from the BHA announcing Bittar’s appointment also included ringing endorsements from BHA Chairman Paul Roy and Horsemen’s Group chairman Paul Dixon (note the forenames again).

If I were Bittar I would find such endorsements a concern as neither Roy or Dixon have a good track record of sound decision making.

Indeed I would even question why anybody would want to take on the role of Chief Exec of the BHA as the role now stands. What exactly are they heading?

The word Authority in the BHA’s title is a misnomer, they seem to have little real authority over a sport which is noted more for factionalism than any coherent authority.

You only have to look at the press release later in the same day as the Bittar appointment to see how much “authority” the BHA has. For the latest pronouncement says the 2012 fixture list announcement, originally scheduled for July before being delayed until the end of September, will not now be made until October.

Is this delay due to a much needed radical reduction to the fixture list, apparently not – all they are looking at is an insignificant reduction of around 80 fixtures.

Dai Walters, who owns Ffos Las has, unhelpfully, thrown his hat into the ring threatening to close the course if their fixture allocation is drastically reduced.

Let me say I like Ffos Las as a course but I have to say Walters intervention is akin to a truculent schoolchild threatening to pick up his ball and go home because things do not go his way.

Walters seems to forget that in terms of fixture allocations Ffos Las has been on the receiving end of some very positive discrimination in terms of fixtures allocated to his course. It strikes me as being somewhat disingenuous to now begin complaining when some of those special privileges, not available to other course, are taken away.   

I digress, so why is there another delay, because the BHA’s “stakeholders” (to use that terrible, meaningless, marketing phrase) i.e. The Racecourse Association and The Horsemen’s Group seem unable to organise the proverbial piss-up in a brewery when it comes down to sorting out a fixture list. They are allowing their own selfish self-interest to override the greater good of the sport.  

As in the case of the Levy “negotiations” and the recently published annual report of the Levy Board makes for interesting reading, “racing” is unable to come up with a united view of what is best for the sport.

If any other business was, and I use the term loosely, organised in the same way as British Horseracing then it would deservedly go bust.

Whilst I wish Bittar well in his new role, he is walking into an impossible job and he is taking on a poisoned chalice. No matter how good he is, until racing is united, until it moves away from its factional infighting, it is a sport on the slippery slope to oblivion and no amount of tinkering with current job holders is going to stop the decline.    

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