I have spoken in my last few columns of the work that racing has to do over the long and short term to allow our sport to thrive. In the month the ROA publishes its annual report, these changes and the re-emphasis on what the ROA needs to do to support racing and owners has never been more relevant.
The change starts at the top and I am delighted to formally take over the role of President. I am extremely proud to be taking on the Presidency of the ROA at a time when, more than ever, we need to represent owners and work with others to deliver the future of this sport.
I would like to thank Nicholas Cooper for his brilliant service to the industry, helping to grow our organisation in number and influence whilst standing up for issues that really matter, such as equine welfare and prize-money. There has been change too elsewhere on the board, with Sally Bethell and Paul Duffy leaving after many years of dedicated service. We welcome Gay Kelleway to the board and welcome back Alan Spence and Sam Hoskins.
The ROA has made good progress during the year, in spite of the pandemic that has caused so much difficulty throughout the country. The ROA has continued to strengthen and has transformed into a properly representative and engaging organisation.
Charlie Liverton has led the highly skilled and dedicated team, delivering extensive modernisation of our services plus more engaging and interactive membership benefits. Most importantly, he has continued to fight for owners, tackling the major issues head-on. The future will present the ROA with some significant and existential challenges, which we are well prepared for.
Covid has presented the whole industry, owners included, with a huge challenge. However, the crisis has also provided us with an opportunity to deliver real change and to drive forward our organisation and sport with an effective long- term vision.
“We will work together with racecourses and stakeholders to grow engagement in the sport”
British racing must maintain its position as an internationally recognised, world-class sport that can grow its revenues, its participation and engagement and attract new generations of owners, fans, jockeys, trainers and stable staff, bringing the passion of racing to millions. We want racing to maintain its place at the heart of the UK’s social fabric. It will take a huge effort and great imagination and innovation, which the ROA must play a central role in.
We have to deliver a programme of modernisation and I am proud to say that the ROA is leading by example. The ROA will be underpinning its representation of owners with a clear set of long-term goals aimed at supporting ownership in racing, improving the experience of racing, encouraging growth of the sport, and ultimately ensuring a sustainable, healthy future.
It is vital that we address the imbalances and inequalities in the sport. Racing can no longer hide from the future. It must embrace a progressive and fair approach, one that respects and protects its participants. This will in part be seen as we continue to negotiate new commercial agreements with racecourses.
We want to work together with the racecourses and other stakeholders to grow engagement in the sport, to help explore and exploit new revenue streams, and to increase the size and scope of the industry, to the benefit of all.
Most importantly, we must ensure that the ROA continues to champion the incredible support and contribution of owners to the industry. In these truly testing times, owners have given unprecedented support to racing. Without their commitment and passion the sport would face a very uncertain future.
In the coming months we will be explaining our vision and objectives in more detail and we want to hear from racehorse owners. Our sport needs and deserves a healthy debate and we welcome your involvement and views.