The recent announcement that six new directors will join the BHA Board has given horseracing’s governing authority an enormous push along the road of modernisation.

It was a commendably radical move to appoint six new directors – to join two existing directors – who are not automatically identified with mainstream racing. Their appointments chime with Chairman Steve Harman’s well-publicised wishes to bring gifted outsiders into the administration of the sport. Certainly, the new directors’ respective abilities cannot be doubted but the board will require help to find its feet, such are the deep complexities of this industry.

A likely ‘knowledge gap’ in the early days will therefore be plugged by two so-called Member Nominated Directors who are to be collaboratively appointed by the Horsemen’s Group members and the Racecourse Association and will probably stay on the board for only a year.

Finding the right people for these positions is going to be difficult. Each of them will be required to have a deep understanding of British horseracing’s many intricacies but at the same time they must not be partisan in the advice they dispense.

The new directors on the BHA board will already be aware that the issue of funding will be uppermost on their agenda

There is also a recognition that, while the board has to be allowed independence in its decision-making role, its shareholders – the ROA, the RCA, the TBA and Licensed Personnel – must be kept informed of these decisions. Without an appropriate communication system, there is a danger that old suspicions and grievances will re-emerge.

The new board marks a change in the process that started back in 1993 when the British Horseracing Board was set up to take charge of a sport that had previously been run for about two and half centuries by the Jockey Club.

As Chairman, Steve Harman refers to his new board as evolution rather than revolution but what happened in the early nineties was indeed revolution in racing terms. The fact that the Jockey Club was for the first time loosening its autocratic grip on horseracing was a change of seismic proportions for our sport.

In those early days of the BHB, board directors were mostly there as representatives of their particular constituents. This resulted in many hours of argument rather than debate, much of it acrimonious, with each one feeling duty bound to support the association they were representing rather than taking a holistic view.

It also made the position of the owners pretty weak. Already by that stage the Jockey Club were the country’s biggest racecourse owners, while they continued to have the biggest representation on the board. This meant they were natural allies of the Racecourse Association and, between the two, they commanded the biggest vote.

For all its imperfections, the formation of the BHB laid the crucial groundwork for what we have today. The transition was never smooth but, gradually, over the years, sectional interests have been replaced by independent representation so we now have a board whose objective will be to make decisions on behalf of the whole industry.

The importance of this cannot be over-emphasised as the ambition of racing and now the government to create a Horserace Betting Authorisation Right to replace the levy system moves ever closer. Once established, this would mean the BHA board would share in the responsibility for collecting and distributing money flowing from the betting industry – a huge undertaking commercially.

The new directors on the BHA board will already be aware that the issue of funding will be uppermost on their agenda. They will know this industry-changing opportunity can only be properly fulfilled if the problem of VAT being charged on payments to racing can be overcome and that any concerns raised by the European Court of Justice must be circumvented at an early stage.

It was 10 years ago when the ECJ destroyed racing’s ambitions to become self-funding, much to the shock of the whole industry. We can be confident that the new BHA board will not allow this to happen again.