Quite an eventful week as things go
Mike Deasy on a week of comings, goings and watch this space for racing
It’s been an eventful few days for racing, dominated by comings, goings and watch this space.
The coming, which has the most long-term significance, was the confirmation that Julie Harrington is the new BHA chief executive, albeit she wont sit at her Holborn desk (or work remotely from it) until next January.
It’s early days, but there isn’t any evidence of mutterings about her suitability for the job. Indeed, you couldn’t find a more qualified candidate.
What you suspect is that Harrington is a very capable operator who is described as a listener and has experience of the commercial world, racing and high-level sports administration.
Clearly the listening is going to be important as various elements from the sport’s dysfunctional tripartite leadership (BHA, racecourses and Horsemen Group, the latter mainly owners and trainers) argue their respective cases – some with more commercial nous than others.
Who’s in charge?
If there are issues over who governs the sport, then they manifested themselves in the big going of the week.
Phoenix Thoroughbreds, linked to allegations of money-laundering, is quitting British racing a year on from achieving Group 1 success at Royal Ascot with Advertise in the Commonwealth Cup.
The man behind Phoenix, Amer Abdulaziz, was accused in a New York court of involvement in the OneCoin cryptocurrency scam. The investigative journalism website Inner City Press said in a Tweet that Abdulaziz was called “one of the main money launderers” by a prosecution witness who himself pleaded guilty to charges in the case.
Phoenix has not responded to questions raised about its funding and its decision to leave the UK. But those questions did not come from the BHA, charged with ensuring that participants in racing are fit to be involved.
The questions came from the Racing Post, who first reported the allegations in relation to Phoenix.
Phoenix said it would always respond to questions from the appropriate body. But the appropriate body didn’t ask any questions. Instead, the BHA said that, after investigation, they were leaving the matter to the relevant law-enforcement agencies.
Hell’s bells, in the context of racing, the BHA are the relevant law-enforcement agency. They should have been asking pertinent questions and assessing the answers, if any were forthcoming, to see if the fit for purpose requirements were being met.
Instead they have stood back and let events overtake them, which fortuitously was the decision by Phoenix to leave these shores. Day’s later and France Galop, French racing’s governing body, announced that France was off-limits to the organisation.
A change of fortune would be welcome
The watch this space category has added to the woes of the Jockey Club which these scribblings noted three weeks ago were mounting up.
Things started well enough last week for Jockey Club Racecourses when they announced they were contributing £3.7m of their own funds into prize-money for the last four months of 2020 despite expected falls in revenue of £75m in 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19.
There were positive noises from the sport’s stakeholders who’d been calling for racecourses to improve their prize-money contributions even if such an approach is unsustainable unless crowds are allowed back to the tracks.
But then the Jockey Club was hit with another and serious distraction.
The Club’s chief executive, Delia Bushell (pictured), has had a formal complaint made against her concerning her behaviour by one of the organisation’s senior executives. It is understood that a barrister has been asked to undertake an investigation and to report their findings.
Whatever the outcome, it is a further unwelcome episode to hit the racecourse-owning operation and some within its walls must be thinking a change of fortune is long overdue.
The Sky has limits
Not long after racing signed up with ITV to provide free-to-air coverage for a further three years, Ascot announced it was sticking with Sky Sports Racing as its pay-to-view broadcast partner until 2024.
Sky Sports Racing has benefited not only from showing the flagship track’s fixtures, not least Royal Ascot, but also the boost to all TV viewing resulting from people staying at home during the Covid-19 outbreak.
This resulted in the channel registering 2.2m viewers across June. That, however, is a daily average of 73,333. Even if that number doubles over the five days of the Royal meeting, it clearly demonstrates the chasm between Sky’s audience and the pull of ITV.
More Of Course
♦Unfair burden of proof on trainers http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4CK
♦Stating the bleedin’ obvious http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4Bp
♦Problems mount up for Jockey Club http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4v7