ROA AGM 2021 - Racing Post

02 September 2021

This article appeared in the Racing Post, 02.09.2021.

By Peter Scargill

Reforming the structure of British racing and pushing for better prize-money returns are top of the agenda in the next 12 months for the Racehorse Owners Association, with the organisation’s president Charlie Parker stating the last year had been “a wake-up call for the industry”.

A review of the BHA, including its purpose and strategic priorities, is being undertaken by consultancy firm Deloitte, and Parker is adamant change is required within the sport to enable better decision-making and ensure growth.

Speaking at the owners’ group AGM on Wednesday, Parker said: “The structure of British racing has to be looked at and we have to ensure that change can take place, that crucial decisions can be made and that strong leadership can help grow and protect the sport. 

“The ROA’s working with [the Racecourse Association] and the BHA, and colleagues in the Horsemen’s Group, to look at how it’s all structured and look at how the sport is run – that’s an ongoing piece of work. It’s high up the agenda and something we’re looking at as we speak.”

A review of the ROA’s own corporate governance was recently completed with a focus on greater transparency and a more skills-based board, with the likes of Philip Davies MP and international owner and businessman Khalid Almudhaf joining for the first time.

Parker said prize-money remained a “significant focus” for the ROA and that increased returns to participants were being sought from bookmakers and racecourses.

Long-running discussions on prize-money agreements with racecourses remain ongoing, according to Parker, who nevertheless believes something will be in place for 2022.

“They are difficult in that there are different groups that need to be talked to and agreements shaped,” he said. “As we approach January the intention is to have agreements in place that control the distribution of revenue into the sport. It’s not easy but we remain hopeful.

“Finding common ground among all participants in the sport hasn’t been easy, but I’m confident all in racing now understand how important prize-money is to owners and also trainers, jockeys and stable staff.

“The link between prize-money, field sizes, horses in training and owners is established, so it is therefore in the interests of all parties to push forward and establish robust distribution mechanisms for all revenue inputs into the sport.

“The year as a whole has been a wake-up call for the industry but it has also shown opportunities for change and growth.”

Parker said conversations with government on levy reform would continue, while post-Brexit horse movement and VAT payments linked to those would also remain a topic, according to ROA vice-president Chris Wright.

Data released in July showed racehorse movements between Britain and the European Union were down by 57 per cent between January and May this year compared to 2019, while there was a drop of 45 per cent in runners travelling to Britain from the EU.

Wright said: “The number of movements has reduced dramatically, certainly in the case of mares travelling to Ireland to be covered, where it’s down from something like 2,700 to 933. Irish mares to English stallions has dropped by a similar percentage of 1,600 to 695.

“The VAT issue alone is as big a problem as any. I understand at the moment there are something like 600 VAT deposits that the Irish government are going to have to repay to British-based mares, for example.”

He added: “It will remain complicated and we will never go back to the situation we were in before. We’re coping even though it may prove more difficult before we finally get to understand what ‘get Brexit done’ means.”

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