Steve Harman has said that the core of the sport “is not well.”
At last! Someone in authority has admitted that there is a big elephant in the room.
Harman said that although prize money will rise to 123 million pounds next year (from £110 million this year); trainers and racecourses are struggling to survive.
He told an attentive audience: “These returns to owners, at average 23p in the pound, are unacceptable and are detrimentally affecting horse population, fixture list and jobs. Many mid-range trainers, with say 20 to 50 horses, struggle to make ends meet.
“Many jockeys outside the top 20 make little money. Many smaller owner-breeders struggle. Many racecourses make low returns.
“Almost £1 billion has been invested in racing assets in the last 10 years, with an average return of just 1 per cent.”
Harman went on: “Horse population has fallen. Gross win in betting shops has declined by £400 million in 10 years, and racing’s betting market share has dropped dramatically.”
Addressing the great and the good from racing in the north of the UK, Harman told those gathered for the Gimcrack Dinner at York racecourse: “Jump racing in the north is not as strong as it was, breeding numbers have fallen, field sizes in certain types of race are a concern. The horse population has declined, putting some pressure on races and fixtures. All these are being addressed.”
I hope so, says Vernon Grant of VG Tips.
For too long those in charge of racing have buried their heads in the sand. They have fiddled while the sport has slowly but surely withered on the vine.
There must be a determined and committed policy to turn racing around and stop it hitting the rocks. No more gimmicks please.
The BHA needs to listen to the right people. The owners, trainers and, yes, those people whose views are too readily ignored. I speak of the punters and the on course bookies. The people who are the heartbeat of racing.
Now that someone in power has admitted there is a problem, it is time for Harman and his team to solve it.
Keen racing fan Jason Brautigam also welcomed the comments from the BHA. Via Twitter he said: “BHA Chairman Steve Harman’s diagnosis for racing. Some realism at last! Makes a welcome change to ostrich mentality.”
Geoff Banks is an independent bookie steeped in the industry. He praised the speech by Harman for displaying signs of “realism.”
But Banks has been quick to criticise how little coverage the speech has received in the sporting press. He said: (I) “hope the odd like minded journo on the networks or papers picks up on Steve Harman’s important comments at the Gimcrack last night.”Recently VG Tips sat down with Geoff Banks to put right the wrongs in racing.
During the half hour interview he was typically outspoken. But his comments are made because, like me, he cares passionately about the future of the sport.
He told us: “Punters are becoming bored of racing. Small field races are a huge turn off for those who like to watch and bet on the sport.”
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