Nigel Elwes, the Chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, today called on the Racecourse Association – trade body for Britain’s 59 racecourses to unite behind the British Horseracing Board’s Future Funding Plan.
In a hard-hitting speech to the TBA’s Annual General Meeting – held at the Churchill Hotel, Portman Square, London, W1, this afternoon – Elwes said: ‘We must all realise that British Racing will only survive and prosper if we can unite behind the BHB so that they are positioned to negotiate a fair price for all those involved in producing and racing our unique and excellent product – the British thoroughbred racehorse.
‘We are going through a revolution at the moment. Revolutions are never easy and usually take longer to work through than initially expected. A special tribute is due here to Peter Savill for his courage, skill and dogged determination in leading the industry forward.
‘We would now have the support of the whole Industry behind the BHB’s Future Funding Plan if it were not for the Racecourse Association. We all have to make some sacrifices, as we have seen the Racehorse Owners’ Association do recently, but I don’t see any willingness on the part of the RCA to even negotiate seriously, let alone to make some sacrifices to achieve the necessary unity within the industry.
‘It is perhaps worth reiterating here that the RCA will never be allowed to control our Industry. It would be unacceptable to all of us and totally illogical. It would also be against the wishes of the Government, who in their recent consultation paper confirmed the principle that the BHB, as Racing’s representative and accountable governing authority, must be the new central funding body in succession to the Levy Board.
‘The RCA seems unable to grasp this point. They must realise that they can never win this battle. Furthermore the racecourses must understand why the BHB cannot sign away its pre-race data rights before it has sight of the Go Racing contract – in simple English we need to know ‘what are we are being asked to sign up to?’.
‘We have no idea whether the necessary safeguards are in place to protect the major revenue stream to Racing – namely the Levy replacement deal with the bookmakers. Once the concerns of the BHB and the other industry bodies have been allayed and the RCA has committed to the Future Funding Plan, the BHB will then be in a position to grant a licence on its pre-race data. At the moment, Angus Crichton-Miller (the RCA chairman) appears determined to replace Alfred Hitchcock as the ‘Master of Suspense’.’
The TBA chairman, who is a director of the BHB, added: ‘This is a crucial time for our Industry. It is the one and only time in our lives that we have the chance to put ourselves on a sound financial footing.
‘If we cock it up this time we might just as well all pack up and go and breed llamas in Peru. And that would be a terrible epitaph to put on the tomb of the RCA because they, and their members, are the only ones who stand between us and the future secure funding of our industry.’
He explained that the Future Funding Plan is crucial to retaining the British position as the best breeders of thoroughbreds in the world because proper rewards must go to all those involved, breeders, owners, trainers, stable and stud staff.
Turning to the TBA itself, Elwes said the whole future structure and operating methods of the organisation are being looked at by the TBA Council. It is hoped that the TBA will publish a detailed document called ‘The Way Forward’ in the near future, addressing issues like the taxing of breeders, funding of veterinary research, marketing and promotion, as well as how the TBA can increase its income, encourage as many breeders as possible to join and the future level of subscriptions which remain the same for the fifth successive year in 2001.
The TBA is also looking into the future of Breeders’ Prizes and Owners’ Premiums. In his statement in the TBA’s Annual Report, Elwes said: ‘A scheme based on a fund of £10 million (currently £1.623 million) as proposed in the BHB’s Financial Plan would be very effective…..’
Today he declared: ‘We must be prepared to come up with some firm proposals to ensure that the enhanced scheme is even more effective at achieving the objective of improving the British thoroughbred. ‘We also need to ensure that the proposals link in with the European Breeders’ Fund’s Breeders’ Prizes Scheme to ensure maximum effectiveness for both.
‘It will be impossible to devise a scheme which satisfies all our members but in order to get it right as right as possible we must have the views of all of you on the subject. ‘We intend to publish a discussion document in the near future. This will raise issues such as whether we should have Breeders Prizes or Owners Premiums or both.
‘Should we restrict the scheme to horses by British stallions or give an additional prize to their offspring? Should we have different rules for the Flat and National Hunt? There are plenty of other questions to answer. ‘Once we have published the discussion document, we will need to start getting immediate feedback from the membership. It seems to me that we can either ask for written responses or arrange one or two seminars across the country.’
The TBA’s new race at Ascot on Friday, September 28, for two-year-old fillies over 6.5 furlongs, worth at least £250,000, is generating a lot of excitement Elwes said: ‘I am absolutely delighted by the news today that Watership Down Stud have agreed to sponsor our Fillies Race for three years. They are a perfect sponsor and we will work together alongside Ascot Racecourse to promote the Race and ensure that we create a unique and memorable British Breeders Day.’
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