29 June 2016 – Racing Post
British racing is on the cusp of “something truly great”, according to Arena Racing Company chief executive Martin Cruddace.
That was his message to the Racehorse Owners Association annual meeting in London yesterday, although he warned the sport’s constituents needed to trust each other and not “micro-manage” each other’s businesses.
Cruddace outlined Arc’s priorities and vision for the future, which included being a leading industry player, investing in facilities and promoting all-weather racing. He said: “Without wishing to be too dramatic, I think British racing is on the cusp of something truly great. The future is enticing. The leadership within the industry knows that there is more that binds us than separates us, under Nick [Rust] the BHA has a commercially driven CEO who is showing real leadership. He has our unequivocal support.”
Cruddace added: “However, for the industry to grow we need to trust each other and not think we can micro-manage each other’s businesses. Most racehorse owners believe in free markets and competition. We must, within reasonable perimeters, apply those principles to our commitment to compete for the participation of their horses.” Cruddace said Arc, long the subject of criticism from horsemen, had changed, citing increased prize-money, investment in racecourses and taking the “considerable financial pain of the authorised betting partner policy”. He added: “We believe this is for the long-term good of our company and, in particular, the industry. My message to all horsemen is this: We stand on the cusp of something special. We have changed our whole approach to grab hold of what the future has to offer; will you?”
Earlier, Cruddace had said the ABP policy had been necessary, but the sport had to recognise the importance of the betting shop operators who had not signed up to the project. He said: “Yes, sponsorship from online operators is very welcome, but to accept that sponsorship, so encouraging betting with operators who fall outside the levy net, simply means we, as an industry, are actively contributing to our decline. We could not stand back and let that happen and are delighted to be seen as one of the leaders of the scheme, notwithstanding the short-term – I hope – financial pain.”
However, he added: “I need to be really clear. Yes, we have our differences with the retail sector on authorised betting partners and the relevance of media rights to the levy – but we do need to recognise the retail sector is the primary customer of British racing. Cruddace welcomed plans revealed by the BHA recently that the industry was looking at potential new fixtures for 2017, such as on Friday and Saturday evenings. “We need to put racing on when people can go. That means more evenings and weekends and, it follows, weekend evenings.”
Cruddace also said it was important the lower levels of the sport were looked after. He said: “It is important we have aspirations to increase prize-money at the top but, without doubt, the best thing we can do for the industry is to substantially increase prize-money at the bottom by using the new levy income in the years ahead and addressing how prize-money is distributed. All pyramids need a firm and secure base.”