COWARD URGES GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE LEVY SETTLEMENT
British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nic Coward, who was guest speaker at this afternoon’s Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Annual General Meeting in London, used his speech to urge the Government to increase racing’s funding when the imminent determination of the 47th Levy Scheme is announced.
"Our case is a strong one, based on any evidence. By any fair assessment, we are due a far greater levy return from the betting industry than is currently being received. We place this fair and reasonable return at somewhere between £135m and £153m, but have also demonstrated that the full value of our product to betting operators, in a theoretical commercial market mirroring the conditions established by the levy, would sit between £177m and £225m," Coward said.
"When this matter was last looked at by Government six years ago, the then Secretary of State Tessa Jowell settled upon a levy that would deliver funding in the range of £90m to £105m. I fail to see how the current Determination can deliver anything but a significant increase on this to racing: our needs have gone up, as a result of an increased fixture list – not least to meet betting industry demands – as have racing’s integrity costs, and the bookmakers’ capacity to pay has also risen demonstrably.
"Now that we have reached a Determination process, Government is required to consider fully all submissions and to reach a considered informed view. Simply to say that the terms of the current Levy Scheme are to be repeated will not be acceptable to us, nor justifiable given the process that Government is working to. For one thing, it would completely ignore the issue of betting exchanges.
"We have consistently and clearly explained why commercial discussions between certain betting operators and certain racecourses for picture payments have nothing to do with the levy, never have done, and the fact that the majority of firms have now signed up for Turf TV is though of course to be welcomed, giving racing a shop window on every high street and promoting betting on racing to punters across the country.
"Government and their consultants cannot ignore the benevolent climate British bookmakers have been operating in for a number of years now, and equally they cannot ignore reality when record profits are announced one minute, and relative poverty pleaded the next."
Coward also spoke about the collapse of last month’s criminal trial that followed the City of London Police’s investigation into alleged race fixing.
"I don’t intend to spend too long going over our previous statements that have been widely reported. It is a matter of fact that the focus of the Jockey Club’s Security Department’s file and the complaint to the police was the gambling activities of someone who had been warned off," he added.
"It is a matter of fact – not the Authority distancing itself from the case – that once the initial approach to the police was made, the investigation was in the hands of the police. It is also a matter of fact that, following the largest such investigation of its type, it was the police and the CPS who brought the case to court. This was the position that we had always taken publicly well before the trial. The outcome of the trial has not changed that.
"It is our role to deal with issues under the Rules of Racing – the Rules that set out the standards that all involved in the sport have to abide by – your Rules.
"Again, as we said would be the case in advance of proceedings getting underway, our legal department is reviewing the evidence presented in the trial. As the regulatory authority it is our duty to consider possible breaches of the Rules of Racing. We hope to conclude this review for next month’s Board meeting."
Coward added that the remit had been extended of Dame Elizabeth Neville’s review of BHA security operations, processes and procedures along with the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the joint security review of 2003.
"Since the trial we have asked Dame Elizabeth to broaden her remit to take into account any issues raised by the trial, and I have also asked her to assess the processes and procedures that racing and other sports governing bodies should adopt when dealing with betting-related matters that may involve breaches of law, as well as its own rules – this is seriously important bearing in mind the new criminal offence of cheating connected with betting. If there are lessons to learn from Dame Elizabeth’s review, we will learn them," added Coward.
He revealed theat British Horseracing Authority director Ben Gunn has just been asked by the tennis governing bodies to lead a review into integrity in the sport.
"The ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and grand slams turned to us, as the leaders in the field, when first facing these issues," added Coward. "And in recognition of his expertise, the combined tennis governing bodies have now just yesterday announced that they have appointed Ben Gunn to jointly lead an independent analysis of their integrity regulations and procedures."
Coward added that the British Horseracing Authority’s former Security Department had been renamed the Department of Integrity Services and Licensing.
"This is not a name change, but reflects an important change in direction. It demonstrates a clear statement of intent: upholding the highest levels of integrity amongst the sport’s participants will lie at the heart of our operations," he continued.
"From the moment anyone applies for a licence, they will be made fully aware of the standards expected of them, including our new rules covering Inside Information. Education is key. The underpinning principle is that we do not want to have an integrity function with which individuals only come into contact when under suspicion or involved in an investigation in some way or another. Deterrent, detection and protection are of course important but the education process will, of course, always be ongoing."
RAUSING CALLS FOR GREATER COOPERATION WITH EUROPEAN BREEDERS
Kirsten Rausing, who this morning was elected chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, called for increased cooperation between the British organisation and its counterparts in Ireland and across Europe.
"It is certainly my intention to instigate further, closer and, I hope, lively co-operation with our Irish (and, for that matter, continental) colleagues in the near future," said Rausing.
"We all face very similar problems, particularly in terms of overproduction, relationships with the European Union authorities and with various sales companies and registration authorities. Joint veterinary medical issues are most important in these days of intense traffic across various borders.
"I feel sure we can improve on the way these matters are handled by keeping communications open with our overseas friends, particularly our colleagues in Ireland. At the risk of stating the obvious, I feel it is fair to point out that our present-day bloodstock sales – at least in the original Tripartite countries – are just different facets of one and the same pan-European market. We must act accordingly."
Rausing went on to issue a note of caution about the health of bloodstock markets in the short-term future, calling for breeders to be realistic about their stock.
"It is truistic to point out that the thoroughbred industry develops in response also to numerous external factors. The most important of these would seem to be the domestic economic and political situation and – of course – the worldwide political scenario," she stated.
"Bearing this in mind, it is not entirely easy to be massively optimistic in terms of the short-term future. An issue that springs to mind is that of Breeders’ Prizes. Whilst we are enormously grateful for their existence, we must face the fact that they will, no doubt, be subject to external criticism. We will make every effort to retain them."
She added: "I have stated my caution in terms of optimism for the short-term future. Today’s very large numbers of yearlings and breeding stock presented at the bloodstock sales in Britain and throughout Europe calls for a large dose of realism to be applied.
"Ladies and gentlemen: the measures we all apply to our breeding stock in the near future will have long-term repercussions."
FREEDMAN STRESSES NEED TO SUPPORT BREEDERS FINANCIALLY
Outgoing TBA chairman Philip Freedman used his final speech to the Association’s AGM to emphasise the need to financially support those that produce the horses racing in Britain.
"Overproduction may make it attractive for those who resent what little financial help is given to British breeders to argue that not only is there is no need for it, but also that, given the number of foals born in Ireland, British racing does not even need a domestic breeding industry," said Freedman, who has completed a five-year term as TBA chairman.
"These are arguments which we must never fail to take issue with, for year in and year out around 40 per cent of horses raced here are owned by their breeders - if you lose those breeders over time you will lose those horses in training. Even if racing may, in the current climate, not need them it could not in perpetuity rely on Irish imports, particularly given that the cream of their crop is now retained to race at home."
Freedman added that the TBA had a special interest in the British Horseracing Authority’s review of the fixture list.
"At a time when breeders are already suffering at the sales from the consequences of over-production, any contraction in the size of the fixture list is likely to intensify the problems we already face," he added.
"That is not to say, however, that we should resist such a reduction, which is likely to be concentrated on races which are of the lowest quality, and thus of least importance to our objective of improving the breed.
"Indeed a clear signal that British racing is to emphasise once again the qualities which have stood it, and the breeding industry beside it, in such good stead for over 200 years, may be exactly what we need."
The Levy Board recently agreed to a new Breeders’ Prize Scheme worth £1.92 million for 2008 and Freedman reiterated the importance of this to his members.
"While many may have been concerned as to the impact both on our membership numbers and contributions to the sales levy which the closure of the Equine Fertility Unit might have, its impact would pale into comparison with the consequences to us of any loss of Breeders’ Prizes," he continued.
"The reaction when they were due to be replaced by a £10 million Owners’ Premium Scheme would be nothing compared to their removal in the absence of any alternative support scheme for British Breeding- and quite rightly so given that the encouragement which the Scheme has given breeders to produce stayers for example, will only in 2009 actually reward those who have altered their breeding plans in response to the Levy Board’s aspirations."
Freedman also illustrated the TBA’s contribution of £100,000 towards British Bloodstock Marketing "without which there would be no expenditure to promote the horses which our members produce."
He went on announce a new Employee Benefits Scheme in conjunction with PFP Financial Planning that can be used by any stud farm
"The scheme will provide a Lump Sum Death Benefit of three times salary, following which we intend to offer a Long Term Incapacity Pay Scheme," explained Freedman.
"With regard to pensions, currently all employers with four or more staff must offer a Stakeholder Pension Plan; there is, however, no requirement for the employer to make any contributions.
"From 2012, from the date of joining an employer will have to pay three per cent with employees paying four per cent, and it has been proposed that the TBA establishes an Association wide Group Personal Pension Plan with a range of employer and employee contributions that can suit any Stud, in order to enable them to opt out of the state scheme and create a scheme better tailored to their own needs."
TATTERSALLS MILLIONS RACES CLOSE TOMORROW
The two Tattersalls Millions two-year-old races, which will be run for the first time this year at Newmarket on Saturday, October 4, close at 12 noon tomorrow (Wednesday, January 9). The cost of entry for each race is £2,000.
Restricted to horses offered in Book One of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale three months ago, the £1,000,000 Tattersalls Timeform Million (for two-year-old colts, geldings and fillies over seven furlongs) and the £800,000 Tattersalls Timeform Fillies 800 (for two-year-old fillies only over seven furlongs) will star alongside the Group One Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes and one of the biggest handicaps of the year, the totesport Cambridgeshire, to create the most valuable day's racing in Britain on the NatWest Rowley Mile in the autumn.
Horses left in both races after the first forfeit stage on May 6, will automatically be entered at no extra cost for the inaugural running of the Tattersalls Timeform £400,000 3-Y-O Trophy over 10 furlongs on the NatWest Rowley Mile in April, 2009.