British horseracing entered a new era Monday, April 3 when the Horseracing Regulatory Authority assumed control of the regulation of the sport from the Jockey Club.
The Jockey Club announced in 2003 the intention to relinquish its role as horseracing's regulators after 250 years, mindful that the perception of a private club regulating a major British sport could be harmful to horseracing's interests.
Although the new regulatory body was supposed to be completely independent, financial issues surrounding the future funding of racing, as well as massive pension liabilities for the Jockey Club's workforce, mean that the HRA has actually been set up as a division of the Jockey Club, albeit one with an independently controlled board.
The board currently consists of two independent directors and two Jockey Club nominated directors. The independent chairman of the HRA, John Bridgeman, has the deciding vote.
"This is a transitional arrangement while future funding and structures for the industry are debated and resolved, but in the interim it will provide regulation demonstrably independent of the sport's participants," Bridgeman explained. "My fellow directors and I will work to ensure that the board's decisions follow the principles of good regulation -- that our decisions are proportionate, fair, transparent and consistent -- and that the board is accountable to the sport's participants as well as the wider racing public."
The first chief executive of the HRA, Peter Webbon, echoed the chairman's sentiments, emphasizing the new body's independent status.
"The launch of the HRA is not just a change of name for racing's regulator. It gives all of us in racing the opportunity to review what we do well in the regulatory process, starting with a completely clean sheet," Webbon said. "Nobody in racing can ignore the role of the Jockey Club in regulating horseracing for 250 years but we now have the opportunity to build on the best of that tradition, while making the most of the opportunities that are presented by becoming more independent.
"The regulation of racing over the next months and years is going to be challenging," Webbon continued. "We in the HRA team welcome this challenge and will work tirelessly with everyone in racing to achieve our shared aim of a successful sport."
The Jockey Club remains responsible for 13 racecourses through Racecourse Holdings Trust and Jockey Club Estates, which owns most of the training grounds in Newmarket among other property.