Another month has flown by and as a sport we are beginning to make progress in rebuilding to a ‘new normal’, having witnessed some fantastic racing with the likes of Enable, Stradivarius and Battaash all fulfilling their star status.
Last month in this column, I was clear that as an industry we have an opportunity to move forward together in the interest of all participants. The response to this message across our industry indicates that it has been well received and that we can make an impact. In short, our message has been heard.
Only very recently, we received a real boost with the news that prize-money minimum values will return to pre- Covid levels from the start of September, while we will also see a restart of the appearance money scheme. All of this, achieved through the hard work of the ROA, Horsemen’s Group, BHA, RCA and Levy Board, bodes well for the horsemen and women that keep this sport going. Our fixtures will now make a more meaningful contribution.
However, this is an interim period whilst we focus on establishing a workable set of fair commercial agreements that will determine the level of prize-money that we race for over the next three to five years. Prize-money is the single biggest issue for owners and all horsemen, helping to attract new owners and retaining existing ones. We know more needs to be done. A long-term solution in the form of commercially sensible agreements will allow us to grow the sport together.
Racecourses, which have kept their executive contributions to prize-money at historic lows, must improve their financial contribution. I believe we have already seen a willingness from a number of groups to engage in meaningful and constructive discussions around commercially sensible agreements for both parties. However, these early signs now have to be backed up with realistic, transparent and fair deals. Owners and the sport’s participants have, I am afraid, built up a cynical view of their treatment. The only way to dispel this cynicism is to be open and candid about the revenue.
“Commercially sensible prize-money agreements will allow us to grow the sport together”
There is clearly more work to be done but the return of pre-Covid levels of prize-money is great progress for owners and horsemen.
With regard to the racecourses, it was clear from the start of racing’s resumption that the owner experience and treatment on track was not good enough. Owners are simply essential to the sport; racing’s governing body, and the courses, must realise this fact and cater for them accordingly.
I am delighted to see, as a result of some strong voices from the ROA and the working group that features representatives from the ROA, BHA and RCA, that we have significantly improved the guidelines for owners on the racecourse. Some of the improvements have been as a direct result of feedback from ROA members to both the executive team and board members, so please keep it coming, the good and the bad!
Owners can now enjoy the reopening of hospitality and other concessions, extra badges and more time on course to enjoy the day and the racing. Particular thanks must go to the ROA team who have helped achieve this excellent outcome.
So another month in these strange times and as a sport we are getting somewhere, albeit with the huge disappointment that the pilot event for a crowd at Goodwood was shelved. This cancellation has highlighted that while progress has been made, it can also be reversed. We are at the whim of the government, especially with the increasing use of local lockdowns.
Yet, to end on a positive note, the sport is now listening to its owners and participants – long may it continue. Progress is good; let’s make it permanent.