Skip to content

Time to go

It was probably clear anyway with the departure of Nic Coward; but in case there was any doubt, today’s Racing Post reinforces the obvious point: it’s time for Paul Roy to step down as Chairman of the BHA.

It’s not news that I have long thought that his policy was at fault, but it’s not for that that I think he should now go: a policy disagreement is not a good reason for believing someone should move on. Tempting though it is to cite that wonderful line, ‘you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts’ in support of my proposition that he is on the wrong side of the Betfair argument, it remains true that until now, I’ve disputed only his view of the world rather than his suitability for the job. But I think that it’s now time he resigned because he has run out of ideas, as he has proved this morning in print.

The evidence is on page 5 of today’s Racing Post, where a number of industry figures are asked for their ‘Mandela moment’. If you have been snowed under or stuffed with too much turkey, this follows on from Paul Lee’s comments at the Gimcrack dinner.

Paul Roy’s reply is that the Levy Board’s ‘Mandela moment’ must be getting “exchanges and their business users” to pay levy; the government’s, ensuring that it ‘safeguard[s] racing’s income from the Tote disposal’; and racing’s needs to be having its two main stakeholders agree commercial terms. In other words, his three ideas are the ones he has been championing without success for the length of his tenure in High Holborn.

I would have thought a ‘Mandela moment’ pretty clearly indicates the needs to reach across a divide to break down arguments of the past, rather than continue to bang on with the same old entrenched positions; to turn to someone who may even formerly have been seen as a pariah by some on the far extreme of one side of the argument, and have him or her show the leadership necessary to bring both sides together, despite the depth of animosity which exists between them. and somehow find a way forward.

That makes the question “what is racing’s Mandela moment?” not even an argument about whether Paul Roy’s wish-list for racing should happen or shouldn’t. His view (shared by many) that it should is well-known, and he has pursued it, to his credit, with vigour. But it is also irrelevant – particularly as all those things are in discussion already, and are likely to be resolved to the great dissatisfaction of one side or the other by spring.

The question therefore now being asked is, “how can a way forward from entrenched positions then be achieved (once these things have all had judgments passed down in a way that inevitably is going to be to the delight of one party in each case and the horror of the other) for the good of the sport, without resurrecting the same debates and wasting more time trying to get a different outcome at the Xth time of asking?”

It should surely by now be abundantly clear that arguing the same rights and wrongs – for which read banging heads against brick walls – is not a solution. If Racing loses this battle again, it cannot resurrect it, but needs, instead, to set itself new goals. Paul Lee alludes to this in calling for a “Mandela moment”, and most respondents to the question in the Racing Post recognise it in their answers. Paul Roy doesn’t, unfortunately. That means it’s time the sport was led by someone else, who does.

Posted in Betting industry, Regulation.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , .

5 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Davidd says

    From another blog:

    RP’s Lee Mottershead fastens upon the suggestion made by Levy Board chairman Paul Lee at the Gimcrack Dinner — that racing needs “a Mandela Moment”. His brief is to establish from various racing luminaries (aka the usual suspects) how they might interpret such an eventuality. Most, eg Paul Dixon, Ralph Topping & Patrick Nixon, play along with the spirit of the game : offering (relatively) conciliatory words — whether or not through clenched teeth with crossed fingers — we cannot say. (Not that teeth have fingers — crossed or otherwise — but you get the gist.)

    Not entering into the spirit are Simon Bazalgette (simply sour) and Paul Roy. PR merely repeats his familiar war cry — perdition to exchanges & all their users (though not, of course, to their investors) and damnation to critics of RFC & Champions Day.

    Don’ t think Mr Roy has quite cottoned on to this “Mandela Moment” concept. Or perhaps he’s thinking “Winnie”, instead of “Nelson”. That would explain it. Let’s hope he doesn’ t start calling for necklaces for Betfair executives.

  2. Stu says

    Mark, again you tease us with your dismissal of the proposition that BF should pay more levy but you fail to put up a viable alternative. What would you do if you were running racing?

  3. MD says

    Hi Stu

    It needs a much lengthier reply than I can give here because there loads of points to make. I have talked and written about some solutions in the past, but the first step towards being able to answer the question in my view has to be to stop focusing on stuff that isn’t ever going to be part of it. Once you stop being distracted by hopeless causes, you can start looking at things that might work.

    For example, you often hear Racing talking about a ‘commercial mechanism’, which by my understanding means doing deals that work for both sides which bring money into racing. But because Racing seems to think it holds all the cards in its debates despite appearances to the contrary from the results of their travails, in reality it doesn’t want to do commercial deals which might help to make up ‘funding shortfalls’.

    Here’s an example: when Nic Coward first arrived at the BHA, his predecessor, Greg Nichols, went in to see him. By then, Greg was at Betfair. He went in to make an offer by which Betfair would pay to re-organise race meetings which had been abandoned because of the weather. The only condition was that those meetings should not be re-arranged on days when there were already five meetings taking place.

    I forget what the commercial value was, but I think it was something like £250,000. On top of that, clearly racing would be taking place which otherwise wouldn’t, so it would have generated further revenue for racing in levy, from Betfair and everyone else.

    Greg was the ideal person to go and make that offer: he knew about the position from both sides of the table. He could say, “I’ve sat where you’re sitting. I know what your thinking is because I commissioned the review which you are now implementing. I am bringing you a solution, having seen from the other side of the fence the reality of the current pursuit being a pursuit not worth making”.

    The answer he got was, “no thank you. We think you pay the wrong levy and we won’t accept any money from you because we are going to get the right levy out of you. We think we will end up richer as a result.” So, the BHA turned down cash to pursue a pipe dream that it’s only immediately-departed CEO, having had full access to all the information that Racing claims would secure its aims if published, was in a position to tell it was not realistic.

    Maybe it made a difference of £1million: not much, I grant you, but this is one example, and it is not an isolated incident. I remember one racecourse turning down a seven-figure sponsorship deal from Betfair on the grounds that “we think you are bad for racing”. The money went, instead, to cricket. And I have written about other occasions before where Nic has been behind turning down money in the belief that more money is available if a case can just be argued for it (which has not yet happened).

    Racing is fixated by a number plucked out of the air (“£130-150m”), and as a result it turns down opportunities to get its current number bigger than it is. It’s like going for a job offer in the unjustified belief that you’re worth £1 million a year when you’re actually worth £500K; getting offered £750K; and turning it down because you’re delusional about your own net worth. And to compound the problem, you then go and spend a large portion of the money you are getting, on legal fees to prove the unprovable net worth. Madness.

    Aside from all that, the “funding shortfall” to which you refer can equally be characterized as poor budgeting from the years when there was massive funding surplus. The levy take more than doubled from £50million in less than ten years from 1999 – no mean achievement. The “funding shortfall” for this year and last was more than compensated for by the funding surplus of the year before, when high roller exceptionals put the levy at an extraordinary £116m. If the sport hadn’t been obsessing about things which were irrelevant, maybe they would have been budgeting for realistic numbers, on a 5-year plan, rather spending time, effort, and money pursuing the unachievable. It makes you wonder whether the Emperor Nero once ran a racing industry too.

  4. geoffbanks says

    Impressive turnover on Racing at Betfair. Negligible return for that impressive amount for Racing.
    Perhaps a tax on turnover and a tax at point of consumption would see everyone on a fair footing, Bookmakers and Exchanges

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Happy New Year | Mark Davies linked to this post on January 14, 2011

    […] does) as the benchmark against which all subsequent Levy yields are measured. As I wrote in reply to a comment on a previous post, that year’s sunny number should have been used, to steal the Chancellor’s phrase, to […]

You must be logged in to post a comment.