The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has taken the first steps on the road to securing a ‘brighter and more prosperous future’ for the sport, Joe Saumarez Smith, Chair of the Board, has detailed.
Following what has been described as ‘months of extensive consultation’, a significant development for British racing was made on Tuesday as the BHA Board voted unanimously for major changes to the sport’s fixtures from 2024 onwards.
“While the scope of these changes is extensive, I am sure sections of the industry will think we have not been nearly radical enough; others will think we have gone too far, too fast,” the Chair announced.
“However, I think we have all been pleasantly surprised by how much goodwill and willingness there has been to embrace change.
“The belief that no one would be willing to take short-term pain for potential long-term gain has been disproved. Those who said the recurring theme would be ‘radical change as long as it doesn’t happen to me’ have largely been proved wrong.
Smith went on to laud the changes as ‘just the start’ of an iterative process for racing’s future product.
Each annual cycle will see new proposals for changes to fixtures for the Commercial Committee to consider.
“We cannot afford to stand still in a rapidly changing consumer environment – you only need to look at the challenges facing cricket, rugby and golf to see that racing is not alone in needing to find new ways to grow,” he added.
Additionally, Smith considered using data properly is central to horse racing’s growth, and for the first time, the BHA’s Project Team has had access to data from betting companies, the Levy Board and racecourses that gives a ‘proper picture’ of how revenues flow into the sport.
He asserted that for too long, racing has made decisions based on sentiment or partial information and the group is now starting to make genuinely data-driven, evidence-based decisions about what is best for the sport.
Smith continued: “In some sections of the industry a narrative has evolved that the BHA is putting betting revenues above racecourse attendance in its priorities for the sport. This is not the case.
“We clearly need to grow both the number of people who bet on the sport and those who go racing and engage properly with the horses and the action on the track. They are not mutually exclusive. But we do also need to recognise that the pattern of when people want to engage with racing has changed – we cannot afford to offer customers an analogue product in a digital age.”
The changes agreed by the BHA Board will be implemented and tested for an initial two-year period.