Friday, 15 February 2013

A Horse Called “UKRacingStratPlan” (?!?)

Having mapped out in the last two blogs my own five “Big Es” and five “Little es” (ten resolutions for the racing industry), I thought I would have a go at tuning in to the more formal strategic intent, goals, priorities and key initiatives for our industry over the next three to five years. Now, you would think that the obvious location for such a strategy would be the British Horseracing Authority, since their web site proudly proclaims that they are “The Official Governing Body of Racing – The First Place for British Horseracing”.

As chairman of a management consultancy I suppose I have become a bit cautious about talking to senior executives about strategy, so I did my preparation, mapped out a number of key open questions and went to the phone expecting a lengthy and searching discussion. The reaction to my opening question, “Could you please tell me where I can find a documented and approved five-year strategy for British racing?” produced an extremely long silence, followed by my being routed around the BHA Holborn office. I chuckled as the general tone of the responses (I never got beyond the first question) went along the lines of: “I’m not sure which department would be in charge of that”; “Since we don’t have any control over racecourses etc., we wouldn’t expect to have a strategy, would we?”; “It’s very difficult, since we have so many stakeholders, so perhaps it would be better if you talked to them first”; “I’m not sure that we’ve got one, or if we have, I haven’t seen it”; and “If it does exist, I don’t think we would release it”.

Not quite sure that this was what I was expecting from a body that sits astride a multi-billion pound industry, with many thousands of dependent employees and a whole infrastructure of breeders, trainers, stable staff, racecourses, bookmakers and owners. I definitely think I’m going to become an investigative journalist in another life. I decided to fire off an email with a more formal request to Paul Bittar, CEO of the BHA, and am awaiting his response with some interest. I’m doing the same with the ROA and Racing for Change.

While waiting to hear more, I’ve been grappling with some of the issues of registering the Owners for Owners racehorses, one element of which is naming them. For any of you who have tried this, you will know that it can be incredibly difficult, since nearly every name you can think of seems already to have been registered. Well, I can say with confidence that one name that no-one has ever used is “UKRacingStratPlan” (that’s even inside the 18 characters maximum limit). Not the catchiest of names, I grant you. I wonder what the breeding would be. How about, by Machiavellian out of Bureaucracy (by Jobsworth).

I’m hoping to be proved wrong, but my fear is that no-one in the racing hierarchy believes that they are accountable for developing a strategic plan that tries to address the huge opportunities but also the great structural weaknesses that currently exist across our sport.

On much less weighty (but far more enjoyable) matters, we held the first Owners for Owners’ “Meet the Trainer” morning with Jamie Snowden at Lambourn last Saturday (pictures on the Latest News page). We had a really enjoyable time, despite Arctic conditions, and saw our Houndscourt put in a sterling performance alongside one of Jamie’s best horses, Present View. There will be other, similar sessions later in the year with Philip Hobbs, Charlie Longsdon and Elaine Burke. Finally, Quick Decisson, our bumper horse with Philip Hobbs, put in a really brave performance in atrocious conditions at Exeter on Sunday. He was just run out of 2nd place and beaten by a decent horse from David Pipe’s, in Vieux Lion Rouge. We’ve had three runs so far and all three have been in the money; long may that continue!


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