Racing United?

The latest gimmick to appear in the battle around the funding of racing is the launch of Racing United, basically  a petition sponsored by the Britiah Horseracing Authority (BHA), Racecourse Association (RCA) and the Horseman’s Group .

In launching the campaign, Nick Coward, BHA Chief Executive states, “The launch of this public campaign is the latest step in pressing home Racing’s case, a comprehensive case that is built on rigorous analysis, and which we have been advocating on behalf of the sport. Our objective is to secure what is right for the future of the whole sport, and the campaign is intended to leave no-one in any doubt as to the strength of support for it across the whole of Racing and its followers.” 

All good words but vacuous all the same as racing shows a complete lack of imagination in continuing to pursue an antiquated, out-dated funding model.

Turning to the Government to sort out racings finances is, effectively, a tacit admission by racings rulers they do not have the wherewithal to run the sport.

Multiple champion jockey AP McCoy has lent his support to the campaign but speaking on BBC Radio he also said he believes racing needs changes at the top of its management structure. A very true comment and surely a statement that should be heeded, coming from somebody with a high profile in the sport, yet not renown for making “political” comments.

Also what is a petition, from what is effectively a self-interested constituency, going to achieve? I am sure, if polled, most turkeys would vote for the abolition of Christmas

The first change at the top of racing should be the immediate removal of BHA Chairman Paul Roy.

He has already amply demonstrated that he considers his ego to be more important than the interests of racing, continually becoming involved in purile, schoolboy mud-slinging with leaders in the betting industry.

That may be a character flaw, which although a potential embarrassment to the sport, it not necessarily terminal in terms of his position as head of the BHA.

What does make his position as Chairman untenable is his hypocrisy and double standards.         
Roy has turned criticising and knocking betting exchanges into something of a cottage industry, taking any opportunity possible to criticise their business model and the perceived effect they have had on racing.

Yet this is the same Paul Roy who jointly heads an investment company which attempted to buy £40m worth of Betfair shares when the company was launched. A company which when only able to purchase £5m worth of shares then proceeded to hoover up as many shares as possible when they hit the market.

Now I am not criticising the decision of his investment company wishing to invest in Betfair, it is a very sound commercial incestment.

Yet this shows poor judgement on Roy’s part.

Firstly how does he reconcile his scathing condemnation of betting exchanges with this company’s acquisition of Betfair shares?

Notwithstanding the above there is a more serious “conflict of interest”.

Being a major shareholder in Betfair, via his company, Roy has an obligation to ensure optimum shareholder return and value in his investment. Yet in his role as BHA chairman he is espousing changes which would harm investors in Betfair. Is that not a conflict of interest?

Want another demonstration of his double standards?

Clearly from his background in investment banking and his on-going involvement in investment companies he is, at the very least, a supporter of a free market. Yet in his role of BHA Chairman he is calling for Government involvement in securing the future funding of racing. Is this not another example of double standards and hypocrisy? I have little doubt he would be the first to complain if the Government began restricting how his investment companies could invest or fund.

Also his criticism of bookmakers moving offshore is also somewhat rich. As an investment banker he knows the duty of organisations to secure maximum return for investors. Is that not what bookmakers are doing by relocating offshore?

Those who know me will also be aware I am no fan of bookmakers, but I do believe in a free market and bookmakers cannot be blamed for securing the best returns for their investors either by offshoring or reducing expense, be it minimising levy payments or other means of cost savings.

I wonder how many members of the BHA or RCA boards employ accountants to optimise their income by making the most of tax advantages and loopholes in the system?
Is that any different to what the bookmaking fraternity are attempting?

Now I have never met Mr Roy so I have no personal axe to grind per-se. Those who know him say he is an honourable man and I am sure he is kind to his family, friends and pets.

However there is a clear conflict of interest between his role as BHA Chairman and his other business roles, as well as some of his public pronouncements bringing the sport into disrepute.

For the good of racing it is time for Paul Roy to go.

Finally on the subject of Racing United, it would be better for the sport if racing was properly united, into a single group with appropriate business acumen and the ability and desire to fundamentally change the structure and funding of the sport.

Yes bookmakers do need to contribute more to the sport, yes exchanges do need to contribute more to the sport.

However it will not be achieved by Government intervention. It will not be achieved by leaders on both sides engaging in public slanging matches, allowing their egos to interfere with commercial interests.

It will be achieved by effective negotiation and a rationalisation of the number of fixtures so the sport is run to fit the funding not by demanding funding to support a bloated fixture list.

Two very quick observations regarding funding:-

Twilight fixtures serve no purpose, other than to feed funds into the bookmakers coffers, if the bookmaking industry want twilight fixtures they should fully fund them themselves.

Northern Racing offer appalling levels of prize money, yet their last annual accounts show a profit in excess of £3m pounds, likewise Arena Leisure show profits in excess of £4m. Why should they not be forced to provide more money to bring prize money to an acceptable level.

It would be very simple for the BHA to immediately impose a meaningful minimum prize money level.

So instead of silly, facile, false “Racing United” exercises why don’t those who are suppose to be running racing actually do their job properly.

If they cannot then move over for those who are capable of doing the job, although I am not holding my breath.

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