Horse Racing

BHA President: Sports have embraced a radical change

The chairman of the British Racing Authority, Joe Saumarez Smith, issued the following statement after unanimously passing the racing reforms:

This week, after months of extensive consultation, the UK Equestrian Authority took the first steps on the road to ensuring a brighter and more prosperous future for our sport.

In an important development for racing in the UK, on ​​May 23, the BHA board unanimously voted to for major changes to the sport’s schedule from 2024 onwards.

While the scope of these changes is wide, I’m sure parts of the industry will think we’re not nearly radical enough; others will think we have gone too far, too fast.

However, I think we are all pleasantly surprised at the level of goodwill and willingness to embrace change. The belief that no one is willing to take short-term losses to gain potential long-term gains has been disproved. Those who say that the recurring theme will be “radical change as long as it doesn’t happen to me” have largely been proven wrong.

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Innovative and wide-ranging proposals come from a group of industry stakeholders who sit on the trade committee and make recommendations to the BHA board. Not surprisingly, not all decisions are unanimously supported by all stakeholders, but all are supported by a majority.

What was agreed on Tuesday was just the beginning of making strategic changes for the long-term benefit of the race. Future racing products are the first of six areas of focus that the industry has agreed to be a high priority. Owner experience, fan engagement, offshore investment, improved betting and presentation products, and product development and broadcast are all in the works, but the urgent nature of Deciding on the 2024 fixture means that this is where our first focus is.

It is important to understand that changes that have been agreed upon by the BHA board will be implemented and tested over the first two-year period. From the beginning of this process, we encouraged everyone involved to come up with innovative ideas and then test them to see if they worked. It is inevitable that some will work better than others, ideas will need tinkering and honing and some may not work at all. But we’re trying something different for the purpose of building proper evidence to show whether we should keep changing or try something else.

Joe Saumarez Smith
Photo: British Equestrian Authority

Joe Saumarez Smith

Of course, this is only the beginning of an iterative process for the future product of motorsport. Each annual cycle will see new furniture change proposals for review by the trade committee. We cannot stand idly by in a rapidly changing consumer environment—you only need to look at the challenges facing cricket, rugby and golf to see that the race is not alone when it comes to finding New ways to grow.

At the heart of developing this sport is the proper use of data. For the first time, BHA’s project team has access to data from betting companies, the Levy Board and racecourses to give an accurate picture of how revenue is flowing into the sport. For a long time, the race has made decisions based on emotion or partly information, and we are now starting to make truly data-driven, evidence-based decisions about what is best. for the race.

In some parts of the industry, a story has developed that the BHA is placing betting revenue above racecourse attendance in its priorities for the sport. This is not the case. It was clear that we needed to increase both the number of bettors on racing and those taking part in racing and properly interacting with the horses and the action on the track. They are not mutually exclusive. But we also need to realize that the pattern when people want to get into racing has changed—we can’t afford to offer our customers a similar product in the digital age.

I must take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the process that led us to Tuesday’s council decision. When last September we started building an industry consensus about a radical change to the sport, there were some dire warnings about not being able to get everyone in the race together. work for the common good.

The fact that these warnings have been proven unfounded is testament to the tireless efforts of all those dedicated to working for the good of the sport as a whole. I would especially like to thank David Jones, who chaired the trade committee, for his extraordinary diplomatic skills and patience.

This is a critical time for the race. All in all, we’re doing better together than we’ve been in years, thinking about the long-term health of the sport and showing a willingness to embrace change. It won’t be easy, especially given the precarious financial situation of so many people involved in the sport, but I remain optimistic that racing is making the right decisions to sustain itself for many years to come. next year.


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