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Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Horsemen’s Group

The Horsemen’s Group

There is a saying that all publicity is good publicity, so let us look at the publicity The Horsemen’s Group has had this year.

Paul Dixon, Chaiman of The Horsemen’s Group, produced an “End of season letter”, which can be found in it’s entirity here: http://www.horsemensgroup.co.uk/letter.html and this post is to see how 2012 has worked out so far.

“First up: prize money. Yes, it’s still not where we all want it to be. No, our campaign does not stop here. I firmly believe, though, that 2011 will go down in racing history as the year the decline was stopped.”

Decline stop did it? Worcester boycott certainly didn’t help that image, and nor did comments by Alan Morcombe, CEO of The Horsemens Group, in the Racing Post this July:

“What do I see from the Worcester situation?” Morcombe asks out loud. “I see trainers desperately trying to raise the profile of their financial plight and using the tariff as a tool.
What I would like to ask is given that The Horsemen’s Group constituents are Owners, Trainers, Jockers, Breeders and Stable Staff, how much input did they have in this strike? This looked to me as a vote of
No Confidence in The Horsemen’s Group. After todays events, I do love this quote:

“In my world if a racecourse isn’t prepared to pay an adequate price for a race it shouldn’t get that race, it should go to a racecourse that is. And yet racecourses have this concept that they own fixtures and therefore if they pay poor prize-money there are no consequences.
“We take the view, particularly with the declining horse population, that there will be more choice and therefore you will choose to support racecourses that step up to the mark.”

2 less courses to worry about now, good old Arena. Speaking of Arena Leisure, this is the same group that Paul Dixon was praising:

“Meanwhile, the All-Weather winter season is going to meet tariff in its entirety, with Arena Leisure making huge strides to upgrade its race programme at the same time.”

If only he had kept Northern Racing onside, now owners of Arena courses, when issuing his league table late 2011 and their attempts to exert influence over courses prize money:
Tony Kelly, MD of Northern Racing: “We are very disappointed and frustrated by these findings, which we believe are based on completely flawed assumptions. Importantly, the data on which the table is compiled does not take into account abandoned fixtures, which as the case of Newcastle demonstrates, arguably makes the list worthless.

“During the time in which the figures were assessed, Newcastle Racecourse lost two fixtures, including our most valuable raceday featuring the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. Together the two meetings carried £144,000 worth of executive contribution and had this prize money been taken into account then Newcastle would have been comfortably classified in the Associate Partner category.

“It is also worth pointing out that the list penalizes racecourses for not meeting tariff levels when the figures include three months’ worth of racing prior to the introduction of tariffs (Nov 2010 – Jan 2011).

“We have sought to make these points to the Horsemen’s Group on more than one occasion and we will do so again following publication of the list. However, I cannot hide my frustration at the accompanying negative coverage their press release unfairly brings to Newcastle and to Northern Racing.”

Talk about coming to bite you in the backside – Bye bye Folkestone, Bye bye Hereford.

RfC and Paul Dixon have been in the press recently, unfortunately not for the right reasons, but back in 2011 looks like Paul was trying to steal some of the BCS & Qipco Limielight, they do co-fund RfC after all. Maybe Paul was still a little riled that the encouragement of ownership was not a priority of RfC when it came to him giving a speech at the Asian Racing Conference.

Presentation:

4) Paul Dixon
Chairman The Horseman’s Group

Motivation for establishing Racing for Change How Racing Enterprises Limited works The campaign to make Tony McCoy BBC Sports Personality of the Year – why was it important, how was it achieved, what have been the results? Social media strategy http://www.lovetheraces.com Admission-free racing Changes to fixtures list How results are measured and what has been achieved to date.

Reading Charlie Brooks piece in Telegrapgh suggested it was anything but http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/horseracing/9418802/Paul-Dixons-self-indulgent-and-off-message-speech-at-Asian-Racing-Conference-did-huge-disservice-to-Britain.html

“Dixon spent thirteen of his fifteen-minute speech talking about the Horsemen’s Group; a subject of no interest to his audience whatsoever and to make things considerably worse his audience actually knew what his speech was meant to be about because it was clearly outlined in the conference brochure.

“The invitation was to speak about Racing For Change, which we thought was a very important topic. It was disappointing this proved not to be the case. There was never ambiguity,” said Andrew Harding, the secretary general of the Asian Racing Federation.

Dixon finally got around to mentioning Racing For Change during the last two minutes of his speech. Such dismissiveness was a pretty clear signal to the rest of the world as to his lack of respect for the focus of their conference ”

Oh…Paul Dixon was aware that the subject was Racing for Change from the 17th May when the organisers emailed him.  Question is, did he bother telling Rod Street & Racing for Change?

Paul Dixon in his letter stated this re working together with industry partners:

Finally, the Horsemen’s Group has nailed once and for all the theory that industry participants  find it hard to work together to achieve successful outcomes or that they lack a broad vision of where they want their industry to go. The vibrancy of HG board meetings, with representatives of all our constituent bodies offering educated, coherent views as to our future strategy and tactics is, I believe, the harbinger of bright days ahead for those of us who live and work in this great sport.

Well Alan Morcombe painted a different story this July:

The Horsemen’s Group were signatories to the deal but their’s was the last name to be added.

“I don’t want to be overly critical of anybody here, but the face-to-face negotiation was done by the BHA and racecourses,” Morcombe says. “The Horsemen’s Group were kept in the loop. I expect future talks with other bookmakers will include the Horsemen’s Group in the face-to-face negotiations and I wouldn’t exclude the BHA from that because they have a role to play.

Well what about the courses?  Surely the implementing of tariff has seen a rosy relationship between HG and RCA:

In May the Racecourse Association’s annual report referred to the process of creating the new structure for British racing having stalled, laying the blame at the Horsemen’s Group’s feet.

Morcombe says the RCA has been as stubborn as his organisation: “The fact that we reject an inadequate scheme that the racecourses support may be considered by them to be holding the process up. I say that’s just being sensible for horsemen. It would be easy for us to buy into a scheme that doesn’t work and the racecourses to applaud us and say what great guys we are. That’s not my job and it’s not what we should be doing.

“The RCA want the racecourses to have total control over all racing’s income and for us to have no control and we don’t accept that position.

“So we say what we need is normal commercial arrangements with you. If that means that we can have an upfront agreed share in your revenues as you grow them and you need us to support you in that growth then that’s fine.”

Always been told leave the best till last, well here you go:

Alan Morcombe  is involved in a number of companies, usual for a Director with the experience he has, but there’s one company that caught my eye, Ambrose Consultancy Ltd.  Here is an email I have sent to Alan (awm@horsemensgroup.co.uk) on three separate occasions, and he’s yet to return a number of calls I have made relating to this email:

Subject: FAO Alan W Morcombe – Horsemen Ltd & Ambrose Consultancy Limited – Related Party Disclosures

Dear Sirs,

I’m hoping you could shed some light on Related Party Disclosures noted in Horsemen Ltd Accounts Y/e 30/06/11.  Comments state that funds were paid to Ambrose Consultancy Ltd in 2010 (£4,440) and 2011 (£270,608) in accordance with agreements dated 26/04/10 and 27/05/11.

Given that Ambrose Consultancy Ltd was only formed in Apr 2010, could you please comment on the details of these “agreements”, and what work Ambrose Consultancy Ltd carried out in 2011 to cover commission, £53,699, consultancy fees, £206,721 and travel expenses £10,188.

Appreciate some details maybe of a sensitive nature, however an overview of the work carried out would go a long way to explaining these “agreements”, and the sums paid to a newco where “A W Morcombe is a director, and sole shareholder”

Kind regards

It would be nice to know that given the infighting between groups as shown above, that this Consultancy firm will not see any business go their way in 2012/13, as it doesn’t look like Alan Morcombe’s Ambrose Consultancy is doing much for it’s £270k.

So what next for Paul Dixon and Alan Morcombe, well I’ll leave you with a quote from Paul Bittar:

“The suggestion that the BHA should be more focused on ensuring racecourse compliance with Horsemen’s Group tariffs is an interesting one, given that the tariffs were set unilaterally by the Horsemen’s Group, essentially without discussion or consultation with the BHA or racecourses.

Looks like they’ll be spending alot of time talking to each other, wonder if Alan will waive the consultancy bill this year, and that Paul Dixon’s End Of Season Letter will read “Dear Alan”.

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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Overview of British Racing Seminar

With the arrival of Paul Bittar, the striking of commercial deal between British Racing and Betfair, I couldn’t think of a better time to attend the Overview of British Racing Seminar, so away I went to Norther Racing College, Doncaster.

Running Order

Robin Mounsey – Communications Manager, BHA
Subject – The British Horseracing Authority

Dr Paull Khan – Director of Racing, Weatherbys
Subject – Weatherbys

Sam Cone – Communications Officer, RCA
Subject – The Role Of Racecourses

Howard Wright – Journalist, The Racing Post
Subject – Racing and the Media

Lyn Williams – Disciplinary Team Manager, BHA
Subject – Rules Of Racing

Nigel Roddis – Development Director, Betting – REL
Subject – The Betting Industry

Caroline Turnbull – Education & Employment Manager, TBA
 Subject – The Breeding Industry

Alan Delmonte – Operations Director, HBLB
Subject – The Levy Board

Here are some of my notes and comments for each subject.

The British Horseracing Authority

The British Horseracing Authority was launched in 2007, merging of the core functions of BHB (Governance) and HRA (regulation) and Racing Enterprises Ltd the central commercial arm. Talk was very much Pre-Bittar and Post-Bittar here. Before his appointment, impression was that the sport authority was “fragmented” and pulling in different directions, no surprise when he started reeling off acronym after acronym, RCA (Race Course Associtation), ROA (Racecourse Owners Association), NTF (National Trainers Federation), PJA (Professional Jockeys Association), NASS (National Assocation of Stable Staff), TBA (Thoroughbred Breeders Assoctation), The Horsemen’s Group and The Jockey Club. Throw in The Horserace Betting Levy Board, Weatherbys and REL, then that is a bus load of chefs.

Theme which ran through the day is that many, if not all, expect the heady days of 2008 to be the norm, and are striving for a return of those glory days. You do learn through the day that these expectations are a pipedream, and the we are very currently going through a leveling out period.  Here are some stats, Racing’s key metrics as Robin put them:

2000/2008/2010

Horses 12,731/15,154/14,340
Owners 8,862/9,537/8,774
Fixtures 1,132/1,424/1,392
Races 7,400/9,494/9,566
Runners 78,102/98,014/92,025

More races in 2010, but less horses and less runners…problem is all there to see, but as mentioned later, once you increase the fixture lists and get involved in commercial deals which has a minimum requirement re fixtures, then it’s impossible to reduce.

Anyway, back to The BHA.  This was very much a Bittar Love In, Paul Bittar came in and handled the “Whip Crisis”, BHA is very much about showing Leadership and offering a Service, and you get the feeling that his role when in Australia is very much the role he will be carrying out here, Chief Strategy Officer; with responsibility for areas including media and broadcast rights, relations with the betting industry, industry funding and planning. “Clarification of Roles” looks like a main task that Bittar has ahead of him for the remainder of the year. Maybe there’s one acronym that is missing when it comes to Overview of British Horseracing Bodies – WALOS.

Weatherbys

In short, these get bloody everywhere.  Racing publications, Racecards in paper, racecards at courses, book compilations, breeding publications, Bloodstock Reports, Bloodstock Catalogues, iPad apps, Insurance, cheque books, credit cards, loans, bank accounts, and this is before you even get to the Racing Admin site – WOW!

Very impressed in what they do for racing, and given that they have a financial arm to the business, which is where they make their money, it’s very evident when it comes to marketing, apps and publications. Contract with British Racing to 2020, it is one part of the industry which I feel is very strong, and got the impression it was very well run.

Interesting point was the “Stalls Checklist”, they provide checklist to starter re trainers request for their horse, last in etc or rug.  This would be of some use to punters, and when discussed with Dr Paull Kahn, said this information was handled by BHA, and request would have to be made to them re publication.

The Role Of Racecourses

Put off from the off with this subject. Overview showed there was 4 All Weather Courses, and Arena/Northern courses were not merged to show the current state of ownership, but to be fair Sam did mention this during the presentation.  Again I was put off though by the amount of “you know”‘s coming from Sam, I counted 63 before I lost the will to continue tallying them up, petty maybe but as said, put me off.

Points re Raceday Management is that CoC are told to avoid Firm going at all costs as increases likelihood of injuries, and they should always work to getting the ground to as close to “Good” as possible, unlucky you fast ground lovers!

59 of 60 are signed upto this Association, Towcester deciding against too, and re Great Leighs, unsure why failed license application.

Alot of work being done to try to bring in non race day business, conferences etc, as well as the usual promotions for race days.

Personally feel it’s a nothing organisation, with racecourses split between a number of groups, and independent owners then I struggle to grasp how they could have an impact on the Racecourse/Raceday Management.

Racing and the Media

Howard Wright was sporting a Ronseal look, but this presenting certainly didn’t do what it said on the tin, more Racing Post than Racing and the Media.  He’s Vice Chairman of Northern Racing College, and has been speaker on this course for more than a decade, and I very much doubt that the presentation has changed over those years, other than to bask in the demise of The Sportsman.

Racing Post only daily paper, I think he may have reached Sam’s quota, but that was what he was looking to drill home.  Mentioned how they were worried about the introduction of The Sportsman, but scorned their layout and mythical bet headline on first copy – Loony Toon (George Graham 20s into 5/4 for Newcastle job).  Took pleasure in highlighting that come October 2006 the paper was set up like RP, racing news at front, sport at back and improved all in line cards, but too little too late.

Couple of interesting pieces “Racing Post driving force behind Sports Betting” – choked on my ginger nuts I did, and also the arrival of Racing + to the table.  With RMG (Racecourse Media Group) having 49% share in Racing+, Racing Post do not want to run pieces that are pro Racing UK and their courses.  He said that it’d be very interesting if RUK Courses would sign up with Racing + given the lack of exposure in Racing Post they have experienced as a result.  Only mentioned BBC/C4 deal during Q&A, stating that be very surprised if reached 5m viewers for Grand National next season.  Never mentioned Social Media once, no surprise given he’s not tweeted #unfollowed

Rules of Racing

Lyn Williams seems to be another who sleeps in a “In Bittar We Trust” vest here due to Bittar’s handling of the “Whip Crisis”, but firstly stewards.  Lyn focused on Race Riding, and roles of the stewards. They have a 5 minute window post race to review and see if any infringements have taken place, and they are broken down into 4 categories; Dangerous, Careless, Improper and Accidental.  If actions deemed to be Dangerous, then the horse is disqualified, any of the other 3 then race to be reviewed for interference and if required alteration of placings.

Lyn pointed out, on a number of occasions, that consistency is the key here when applying these rules, and that alot of effort is made in working with stewards, jockeys and associations to ensure that the decision-making is consistent throughout the process.  This is what Paul Struthers complained about last week, where stewards are not going to overturn the decisions of other stewards on a regular basis.  However, appeals have been more successful in 2011 than 2010.  2010 Appeals 22, Successful 7 2011 Appeals 33, Successful 14.  Press & PJA never focuses on the fact that 99.5% of Racecourse Decisions are accepted, just the successful appeals.

Hyped up BHA Site saying that their website is the “Finest of any regulatory body in the world”, but not one for Rule Jargon ie doesn’t quote Rule number after Rule number, and very much likes to keep things simple. Re Whip, accepted that they “got it wrong” on penalties, and praised Bittar for taking the flak from the off for it. Videos at end of presentation was of Casella Park re non-trier rule, and of Richard Hughes on Barney Curley runner Avisio for careless riding.  No questions which disappointing as would have liked to ask re the “consultations” that took place before implementation of initial Whip Rules, and also the boycott @ Worcester.

The Betting Industry

Presentation rushed a little due to time constraints, and don’t have copies of the slides which is disappointing, will try to get copy and update later.

The Breeding Industry

Another that was slightly rushed, even rushed I thought was very interesting.

Anyone can breed a racehorse, obviously there’s an element of skill to it, just as there is an element of luck to it also, but anyone can breed a racehorse.  TBA supplies 52% of horses in training in UK from 3962 mare owners in 2011.  81% of those owners only have 1-2 mares, and 0.3% have 31+ mares, them are the commercial stud farms, your Juddmonte and Darley etc.  As I said earlier 2008 was when the bubble popped, and in 2008 there was over 4500 mare owners in UK, 10000 in Ire, in 2011 that fell to 3962, and 7200 respectively, and similar story re Active broodmares.  Foal production in 2008, UK 5900 Ire 12000, 2011 UK 4502, Ire sub 7000. With that in mind, there has to come a point where the reduction of fixture list becomes the only viable option to keep the races competitive. Even though numbers are dwindling, Bloodstock sales in 2011 are impressive.  Increase in turnover for all sales companies, Increase in 15% in combined average of sales to 26,634.

The breeding programme itself is interesting too.  With the need now for early speedier types when it comes to the flat horses, so covering cycle starts earlier, to ensure that coming the sales they are seen as on paper the early and speedy type which many purchasers seek, obviously the commercial studs can play the long game.  Like any involvement in racing, gambling aspect is never far away and breeding is just that; “Breeding is a futures game and the matings for horses sold in 2011 were planned in 2008 so you have to have the foresight to have horses by the right sires” John Warren, 2011

I would like to highlight the 18-35 Membership which TBA run, as I feel that for £50, you can’t go far wrong with the package they are offering to anyone aged 18-35 year olds with an interesting in learning more about the bloodstock industry:

The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association – 18-35 Membership Details

The Levy Board

Punters are a big aspect of racing, yet as many will testify, we are not a voice that is regularly heard when it comes to decisions that impact this sport, very surprising given that 66% of funds pumped back into racing is from gambling.

The Levy was brought in to compensate the loss of income to racecourses when LBO opened in early 1960s, and we saw a growing trend until period of 2007/08 to 2010/11, falling from £115.3m to £59.5m, main reason for this is Bookmakers moving offshore to avoid paying the Levy.  An extra £4.2m in prize-money this year compared to 2011, but you do get the impression that the days of the Levy are very much numbered, and once again we turn to Paul Bittar, and the “Clarification of Roles”.

HBLB and The Horsemens Group were not involved in meaningful discussions relating to the commercial deal between BHA and Betfair, and I get the feeling however loud they cry, they won’t be involved in any meaningful discussions going forward.  Yes they will be there to sign off on deal and sing from a hymnsheet, but that hymnsheet is very much BHA’s and the coming months will no doubt see changes throughout the structure of British Racing. As at today, HBLB have not actually received the funds from Betfair relating to this deal, they are working under the impression that BHA will transfer the funds to them for distribution, but could this be the first of many roles that Paul Bittar will clarify, and ultimately do in-house?

The Overview of British Racing Seminar is well worth the attendance fee of £90, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to continually improve their understanding of the industry to a point.  However, whereas through years of recession many industries have streamlined, Racing has seen a flood of Associations and Groups were roles are not clearly defined, and their voice is not united. Tonight, and for the foreseeable future, I will sleep in a “In Bittar We Trust” vest, as we could very well be about to witness a much-needed purge.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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