Major Reforms Part of Agreement in Great Britain

Peter Savill, who will step down at the end of June after six years as chairman of the British Horseracing Board, announced an agreement June 10 that should end the Office of Fair Trading's investigation into British racing. Businessman Martin Broughton will take over from Savill.

Savill spoke at the annual meeting of the BHB. He said the OFT is satisfied with the deal. "As a result, it is prepared, subject to a short consultation process, to close its investigation," he said. "I have no doubt that our own industry will support our vision for racing, and I hope that the bookmaking industry will support the proposals which are good for the betting industry as well as for racing."

When the OFT became involved with the racing industry, the BHB's response was an aggressive defending of the sport, but time has seen that turn into cooperation.

"We have been able, through sensible negotiation, to maintain a structured fixture list under the BHB's jurisdiction, responsive to the needs of the horse population and racing's customers," Savill said. "We have convinced the OFT that (steeplechase racing) should be treated in the main as a separate sport to flat racing. By doing so, (steeplechase racing) will now be able to flourish, as will the many small, community-driven racecourses that showcase this important part of country life."

Savill said the BHB has preserved data sales, upon which racing depends for revenue, and has told the OFT it would "operate a non-exclusive, non-discriminatory policy at fair market value."

"And finally, we have maintained the ability to make orders and rules for our sport," he said. "Sporting rules are imperative for a proper sporting structure, and a strong governing body is vital in order to maintain the balance between the differing interests within racing."

Savill also announced that a legal challenge by bookmaker William Hill to the European Court Of Justice over the BHB's rights to race data hasn't been accepted.

The BHB is making changes that should help maximize British racing's income in 2006. The number of fixtures will rise from 1,341 this year to 1,500 in 2006. Additional lower-class racing will be introduced, and racecourses will have more options to move dates and secure new ones.

The spread of the fixtures throughout the year will be more even. Field sizes will be limited to a maximum of 14 runners, except for Pattern races and major handicaps.

"By finally maximizing the use of its assets, British racing will generate approximately £40 million more in income for the industry, and around £30 million more in prize money in 2006 compared to 2003 (£130 million from £100 million)," Savill said.

The modernization program of the BHB is concentrated on seven areas of reform:

- Separation of the governance and commercial functions of the BHB.

- Restructuring of the BHB board.

- Changes to the ownership and management of racing's commercial interests.

- Changes to the method of allocation and distribution of data income.

- Establishment of a purse agreement between racecourses and the recipients of prize money.

- Introduction of greater competition between racecourses for fixtures.

- Modernization of the orders and rules of racing.