Monday 1 June 2015

The Growth Strategy for British Racing, Part 2 of 3: Cuts are coming

In the last blog I looked at the overall context of the growth strategy for British racing, as presented by Nick Rust and Rod Street in early May as part of their road show around the UK. While lots of initiatives were outlined, there was also some doom and gloom …. and indeed only a few days later Paul Lee, chairman of the Levy Board, duly announced a £4m reduction in expenditure in 2016 (which is bound to affect prize-money) and more substantial cuts threatened for 2017 – a timely reminder that all the various parties in racing really need to give total commitment to the growth strategy. So in this blog, here is an outline of the recommendations. Doubtless other ideas and activities will be developed as the strategy is implemented, so this is not necessarily a complete list, but the main themes and pillars are as described in the presentation.

1. Racing Structure & Governance

Like it or loathe it, racing does not operate through a conventional integrated structure with clear lines of authority. Consensus and collaboration rule the day, despite the considerable downside that this can lead to lengthy delays in decision-making and also allows stakeholders to exercise negative authority by blocking much-needed changes and reform. Nick Rust emphasised the need for racing to help itself and pursue “one journey: one voice”. Hear, hear! There is going to be a governance change with a tripartite arrangement between the BHA, the Horsemen’s Group and the Racecourse Association. There will be a members’ agreement, a members’ committee to steer strategy, and executive committee to make the key decisions. This is a challenging arrangement which will need “collaboration with teeth”.

2. Critical Success Factors: Transformation vs. Incrementalism

One way of evaluating any strategy is to look at the recommendations which are essentially incremental vs. those which are genuinely transformational. This is not in any way to knock incrementalism, but there is normally a need for significant innovation in a small number of key areas to drive successful change. We will return to that theme in the third blog, with a more critical appraisal.

Four clear, quantifiable targets / CSFs were highlighted: 1,000 new horses in training and racecourse attendances to be at 7 million by 2020 (vs. 5.8m today); betting revenues to rise by 5% and a minimum of £120m of extra income to flow into the sport by 2018.

3. Racing and Betting Pillar

Vital need to reverse negative trends. Incremental recommendations included: connecting better to betting consumers; setting up a Racing and Betting Forum; improving sectional timings; closer alignment in race timings and broadcasts between GB and Ireland; and introducing an “Own Thursday” day, where betting can take place free of many of the other sporting distractions. Transformational recommendations: there weren’t any.

4. Customer Growth Pillar

Incremental recommendations included: developing better customer insight; using customer data more effectively; setting up a national survey; better promotion through social and digital media; seeking more sponsorship. Transformational recommendations: there weren’t any, although the vision of 7m racegoers may well need some.

5. Horse Population, Ownership & Breeding Pillar

Incremental recommendations included: simplifying owner administrative processes to lower the cost and complexity; liberalisation of colours; framing minimum standards for trainers, racecourses and the administrative experience; launching a data project on owner experience and owner churn rates. Transformational recommendations: although there weren’t many specifics, there is a clear intention to put funds behind the goal of 1,000 additional horses in training by 2020. That will be a centrally-led drive.

6. Ultra-High Net Worth Pillar

No real detail here, other than saying there is a need to “integrate and optimise new and existing resources”.

7. Integrity & Regulation

Strong commitment to maintain the world leadership reputation of British racing, and for there to be “impactful, cost-effective targeting of risk areas”. Incremental recommendations such as a plan to simplify and make more transparent the rules of racing; continued targeting of corruption, but making sure that the authorities are aware of “the danger of sledgehammers to crack nuts”.

8. Welfare & Training

Not many specific recommendations, although there will clearly be greater emphasis on integrated recruitment and learning and development; injury rehabilitation and broader education on relevant subjects such as nutrition for jockeys.

9. Funding

Running right through the presentation and discussion were continued references to “Where is the cash going to come from?” Part of that is the “need for fair and sustainable funding between betting and racing on a reasonable basis”; part through the introduction of the Racing Right; and part through the need for racing to be far more open to ideas for investment from outside the sport. A lot of that will have to be transformational.

Doubtless you will have your own views about the coverage and relevance of all these various ideas and recommendations …. together with key elements that you may feel have been neglected. More about that in the next blog.

I am always interested to hear your views so please do leave a comment. If you can't see the comment box at the bottom of this post then navigate to the post using the right hand navigation or click here > and scroll to the bottom of the page. Look forward to hearing your views. Thanks very much for sharing them.


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