Sheikh Mohammed's Gimcrack Speech (Cont.)
Updated: Tuesday, December 10, 2002 11:04 AM
Posted: Tuesday, December 10, 2002 11:02 AM
Owning racehorses is a huge financial commitment for most people. Like us, they choose to put some money into their passion for racing. Yet every year owners are being driven out of the sport because they just can't stop the tide of racing's financial realities sweeping over them. And if owners leave the sport in significant numbers, the jobs of countless people in the industry are either lost or become less secure.
I believe particular attention needs to be paid to the situation in relation to stable staff. I have been hugely disappointed that hardly anyone, amidst the acres of newsprint and airtime that have been devoted to discussions on racing's finances in recent years, has sought to make stable staff a priority.
Again and again, we hear from trainers that the biggest problem they face is recruiting good staff. Why? Because they are often poorly paid, are offered only a limited career path, and have pension arrangements that might be said to belong to a bygone age.
The historic underfunding of the sport is largely responsible for this appalling situation. But it will shame everyone involved in British racing if the current opportunity is not seized and significant steps are not taken to put the situation right as quickly as possible.
The truth is that underpaid stable staff are subsidizing the sport in exactly the same way as owners are. That is not just unacceptable, it is immoral.
Like many stables, we are fortunate at Godolphin to be able to pay our employees more than the agreed minimum rates. Staff are the key to producing top-class horses. Without high-quality staff, it is impossible. That is why I believe we now need an action plan aimed at improving the pay and conditions of stable staff in Britain.
It is time racing's leaders spoke up for stable staff; time that tackling the problem was made a priority; time that decisions made at the BHB and elsewhere were tested to see how they impact on stable staff. Time, in short, for a new deal for stable staff.
So far tonight I have concentrated on the way racing is organized and funded and the way its participants and key workers are rewarded. But I believe it is also vital for racing to look out to the wider world, to consider how we can encourage more people to share our passion for this great sport.
When I go racing in England, I am always struck by the composition of the crowd. Where are the young people and the families? More must be done to widen the appeal of our sport, to make racing a sport that attracts young people and families. Racing can be too closed, too inward looking. We need to broaden its appeal.
Racing must sell itself to the wider public. The Discover Racing initiative has been a disappointment, but rather than give up on centralised marketing, racing should redouble its efforts. A coherent, ambitious plan to market our sport to young people and families must be produced as a matter of urgency. We need a new audience, a new customer-base for the 21st century.
That way more and more people may come to learn what a wonderful, compelling, fascinating sport this is. I have been involved in British racing for 25 years. I have had some great days and, of course, many more disappointing days. That is the nature of horseracing.
Godolphin is now the focus of my racing ambitions. People said we couldn't train Classic winners from Dubai, but we have done and we hope to go on doing so. Now we want to take Godolphin to the next stage of its development, to consolidate and enhance our position as the world's only truly international racing stable, to win more of the world's best races.
My personal challenge for the next 25 years and beyond is to take Godolphin to new peaks of achievement. Our ambitions are global. Much as we love racing here, it is true to say that we no longer focus predominantly on racing in Britain. It is inevitable that you will see less and less of our blue silks on British racetracks because the whole point of Godolphin is to challenge for the best races all over the world. That obviously limits what we are going to achieve in Britain, but it provides us with a range of global challenges that are as exciting as they are daunting.
I wish British racing well with its challenges. For the sake of those who work in the many branches of the industry and for the sake of all those who love horseracing, I hope that the sport's leaders will rise to those challenges and pave the way for British racing to enjoy a prosperous and healthy future.
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