(Edited press release)
Following a Jan. 17 meeting of the National Steeplechase Association's board of directors in Baltimore, Md., president Franny Abbott announced a 2008 preliminary plan to restructure the organization that governs the sport in the United States.
"As a result of several recent long-range planning meetings, the board has agreed to begin a search for a paid chief executive officer to guide the future of the sport," said Abbott. "We are addressing some of the issues of our constituents, and we believe this is the right direction to take at this time."
In the transition period, which is expected to last several months, Abbott will act as cheif executive officer until a candidate is selected. Peter McGivney, the chief financial officer, will continue to handle all financial and administrative matters, and William Gallo Jr. will continue to focus solely on his duties as director of racing and racing secretary.
"Once the new CEO is in place, I will gladly hand over the reins, and he or she will evaluate the organization and develop a more elaborate plan for the future," said Abbott.
The announcement follows the recent decisions by two NSA race meetings (Little Everglades, in Dade City, Fla., and the Queen's Cup in Mineral Springs, N.C.) to run without NSA sanction for the 2008 season. The meets cited dissatisfaction with the sport's management and direction. Little Everglades had been the season opener for the past seven seasons, while the Queen's Cup joined the circuit in 1995.
"Their action started a process of the board looking inward and gathering information," said Abbott. "It pointed to the fact that we needed someone in the office to run the organization on a full-time basis."
The board appointed NSA director and steeplechase/flat horse owner Ken Luke as the chairman of the CEO search committee. In addition, the board also created a committee of directors, race meet representatives, and a horsemen's representative to address the loss of the two meets and other concerns of race meets.
"We have had several discussions with the leadership of the two meets and hope to have them back on our schedule in 2009, if not this season," said Abbott. "They have brought up some points the sport needs to address, and we look forward to working with them."
The official governing body of steeplechase racing in the United States since its creation by The Jockey Club in 1895, the NSA closed its 2007 season in November with a record purse distribution of more than $5.3 million. Based in Fair Hill, Md., the NSA has a full-time staff of four and is managed by a board of 15 directors. The 2008 season starts March 22 with the Aiken Steeplechase in Aiken, S.C.