For the second year in a row, the Racehorse Owners Association held its Annual General Meeting virtually on Wednesday with Charlie Parker using his President’s address to reiterate his commitment to levy reform.
The issue of prize-money is a topic that has continued to be hotly debated in the past year, particularly as for large parts of 2020 funds were reduced owing to the impact of coronavirus on horseracing.
Parker said: “As you will know, prize-money remains a significant focus. Finding common ground amongst all participants in the sport hasn’t been easy but I am confident that all in racing now understand how important prize-money is to owners, trainers, jockeys and stale staff.
“I have devoted substantial time and effort into various initiatives to secure pre-Covid levels of prize-money and grow it over the coming few years. Across levy contributions, racecourse executive contributions and by helping to generate revenue growth across the whole industry. To secure these objectives we need sensile and agreed Levy reform and extension as well as agreements with Racecourses around Executive Contributions.
“On these commercial agreements, the conversations and negotiations continue. The link between prize-money, field sizes, horses in training and owners is established it is therefore in the interests of all parties to push forward and establish robust distribution mechanisms for all revenue inputs into the sport.
“Levy reform will continue to be a priority for me. With its clearly defined parameters, the levy is much more aligned to the sport’s participants than racecourses and their revenue streams.
“Let us not forget it has funded most of our prize-money this year when racecourses did not. It is – in many ways – a direct revenue stream for owners in how it supports prize-money. We will be looking at how to secure fair and sustainable reform.
“When we benchmark the return that racing receives from bookmakers across other countries the return in Britain is – by a long way – last. This has to change. Especially in a post Brexit world where Britain must stand alone and attract inward investment, this should be achievable.
“A cross industry group on levy reform has already been working hard through the pandemic to find a solution. We are looking across overseas betting. We are looking at the way in which it is calculated.
“With the government’s promised levy review and the Gambling Act review there should be opportunities. We will also have a job to protect gambling and levy revenue at the same time. The politics of it all will be difficult as ever, but we hope to make progress where possible over the coming year.”
Parker also used his address to highlight how owners have been integral in keeping the sport going in what has been a turbulent 18 months.
He added: “Without owners this sport – that we all love so much – just would not be possible.
“Our focus has been directed at the relationship between owners, the racecourses and the financing of the whole industry. This will continue.
“It is key that all off the sport’s participants understand what owners require. From the raceday experience and prize-money returns, changes to administrative processes or relations with trainers, jockeys and stable staff.”
Before Parker’s address, the ROA concluded the formal part of its 77th AGM with all six resolutions approved by its members including the approval of the co-options of Ken McGarrity and Khalid Almudhaf, alongside the elections of Philip Davies MP, Mouse Hamilton-Fairley and Celia Djivanovic.
Almudhaf is a long-term racehorse owner in the UK and a Kuwaiti businessman who will provide in-depth knowledge of the ownership experience in the UK as well as insight into foreign investment into British racing.
McGarrity, who has been the ROA’s Scottish Representative for the past six years, will continue to bring his experience as a Group Finance Director to his role as Chair of the ROA Audit Committee.
Parker added: “We have had a very strong year in the circumstances, making progress on vital owner issues and progressing our own development as an organisation.
“With the new board members, new articles and a clear mission to be the voice of owners, I am confident we have an exciting year ahead, improving ownership – from the stable to the racecourse – and shaping racing’s future in the UK.”