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BHA marks ten years

Nick RustBHA chief executive Nick Rust believes British racing's governing body is making good progress following a difficult 2016 as it marks its tenth anniversary.

Giving a 'state of the nation' assessment of the organisation, he addressed the target of having an extra 1,000 horses in training by 2020.

Nick Rust said: "The number of horses in training has grown since the target was set.We're on course for that target, but in terms of the way the horses are distributed we're still not seeing growth in sole ownership. In fact, we're still seeing a very slow decline.

"I'm confident the sport fully understands it needs to get behind ownership across the board and on behalf of the industry's executive committee [ROA Chief Executive] Charlie Liverton is leading and coordinating a cross-sport plan to grow ownership.

"We'll no doubt invest in that as one of the priorities coming out of the additional revenues from the replacement levy."

Rust also revealed the sport was developing an overarching commercial plan for British racing now that the government's levy reforms had improved and brought more certainty to its finances.

"We've got a situation where the sport has an opportunity to truly have an umbrella commercial plan," he said.

"I don't mean everyone has to give up their individual rights and we have some kind of centralised commercial plan or rights holder, but I do mean we have a situation where all of the leading individuals and organisations in the sport understand, support and contribute to a wider plan.

"Right now the leaders in the racecourses, the horsemen and the BHA are working on exactly that, a refresh of the 2014 strategy for growth and putting it into a strategy that is fully supported across racing which allows us to harness our opportunity to grow this great sport again."

One target of the 2014 strategy for growth was to achieve annual attendances of seven million by 2020 and Rust conceded that aim would not be met.

He added: "However, the work that's gone on with racecourses is driving attendances and they are generally on an upward curve.

"A lot of the work done in the last year through the data project Great British Racing and the racecourses are working on is around how much value is generated by those audiences.

"So rather than simply driving footfall they have looked at how to optimise the average spend of each customer."

Rust added that equine welfare was the BHA's number one objective.

"We have an emerging refocused plan under [director of equine health and welfare] David Sykes," he said.

"It's important we provide leadership for the sport on everything from perception with the public, reducing equine fatalities and injuries and dealing with welfare at all stages of a racehorse's life from the moment it is registered as a foal through to the point it leaves racing and afterwards."

Rust said he believed the sport was on "an upward curve".

He admitted the furore surrounding lawyer Matthew Lohn’srole in the inquiry into trainer Jim Best last year had been a "significant setback" but that it had dealt with the issue and was moving forward.

"We had some issues with Matthew Lohn, some major learning points, but I believe we have dealt with those and put in place a better system that the sport will be proud of over time," Rust said.

"I believe the strength in depth of my executive and leadership teams is significantly better now than it was several years ago. We have key leaders for our sport within the BHA team and they are there to be seen.

"We have plenty to do but I think we've made progress.We're in pretty good shape and I don't think there's anyone out there calling for a significant change in the direction of the BHA.

"We've had significant setbacks with the Matthew Lohn issue but I do believe we're moving on from those and that the BHA is playing its full part in leading this sport through to a better place."

26 July 2017

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