Last month’s signing of the BHA Members’ Agreement and the resulting constitutional changes represent a significant step forward for everyone involved in the leadership and administration of our sport.
The long delay in getting to this stage could mostly be traced to the RCA and its position as a shareholder, because some members found difficulty in reaching an understanding and wording over what they regard as racecourse fixtures. While as Chairman of Newmarket Racecourses I had some sympathy with their concerns, I never felt they were as big a problem as some saw them, and I am delighted that suitable wording has been found to satisfy everyone.
We now have a structure and mechanism for dealing with disagreements and resolving them. With the executive teams and Members’ Committee fully in place, I believe we have the best possible chance of working together. We can present a common front in our discussions with government, alongside collective responsibility, which has so often been lacking in racing.
The strength that the Members’ Agreement provides can only help us in seeking a solution to the substantial underfunding of our sport
There are several hugely important issues facing the sport, none more significant than the levy, and the unified approach by racing’s constituents to the latest negotiations, as well as the move towards appointing approved betting partners, is encouraging. Now that the next levy scheme is due to be determined by the government minister, the strength that the Members’ Agreement provides can only help us in seeking a solution to the substantial underfunding of our sport.
The Horsemen’s Group, which is the BHA shareholder to which the TBA belongs, with the owners and licensed personnel, has come a long way since its inception, and the importance for breeders is that we now have a formalised place at the top table, on equal footing with the racecourses.
As members will be aware, we have already started working with the BHA on a number of issues and the new structure will allow us to put forward and develop policies that promote breeders and breeding in Britain.
One such topic is the BHA’s holistic review of race planning, which will look at ideas that more closely align the healthy, ready-to-run horse population to the race programme, which must be a sensible approach.
While we all know that horses are not machines, those that are fit and bursting to run should be found opportunities, and if this can be managed, more horses will benefit and be able to run more times in a season. This can only be good for owners, and, by association, for breeders.
A modern, internet-based system that is flexible and able to manage a race programme based on up-to-date information will need a culture change from the planners and participants to succeed, but in the end it should be to the benefit of everyone.
The BHA is also reviewing the whole structure of race-planning and pattern committees, and the horsemen, who need to be involved at every stage of the process, are providing substantial input. This is one of the most vital elements of central administration for breeders, and the TBA will ensure it is involved as closely as possible in the formation of these committees and how they operate.
Of course, there is always liable to be conflict between the commercial aspirations of the racecourses and the wishes of horsemen for, in particular, development races, but a sound and well balanced racing committee has in the past been able to find sensible solutions. The fact that so many racecourses have aspirations to promote and upgrade Pattern races is encouraging, but an impartial pattern committee for both Flat and jump racing is so important in safeguarding standards.
For all the collective spirit that abounds, room still exists for individual initiatives, and in this respect I am proud to welcome the introduction of The Thoroughbred Club, a combination of the ground-breaking Next Generation Club and our 18-35 membership tier. Educating and inspiring a younger generation to be involved with the thoroughbred, and all that links to it, will allow their interest to grow and promote a lifelong engagement with the sport.