In today’s Guardian, Greg Wood suggests racing is supporting Martin Broughton and siding with the SIP bid.
” . . . the final resolution of the Tote issue should be a moment to draw a line under the complaints about government double-dealing and broken promises – for all that most are fully justified – and start to build a profitable future for a betting business in which the sport has a direct financial interest.
Should, but possibly won’t, because racing rarely takes the easy course on anything. The announcement, when it arrives, will be seen instead as either a victory or a defeat for the sport, since the British Horseracing Authority has thrown its weight squarely behind the Broughton bid. Should it fail, the BHA will be cast as losers from the outset, poor judges who backed the wrong horse. Even if Broughton’s Sports Investment Partners gets the nod, the BHA will then share the blame should SIP’s ambitious plans to float the business on the Alternative Investments Market go awry.”
The real danger for racing, in my opinion, is the rather noisy elephant in the room that is The Horsemen’s Group (THG). Their CEO Alan Morcombe has already castigated racecourses for, among other things, ‘putting profit above quality racing’. Lordy me, a business man who does not care for profit. I’ve yet to read any comment from THG about the sale of the Tote, but I’d be willing to bet a large amount that a THG ‘strategy’ for gaining a foothold in the new set up is well formed.
If Fred Done wins this one, everyone who cares about racing should sigh heavily with relief. Not least because in his desperation to get it, Fred might well have promised too much. In a straightforward deal, he’d be doing well. In one where he immediately starts handing out cash, taking on pension commitments, funding charity vehicles, making annual payments to racing and, trying to do what many before him have failed to do – restructure a poor-performer in the pools business – Fred’s fierce ambition might be his undoing.
When Fred thinks the deal is safely done, he’d best hold off on the champagne. Racing should be the party celebrating. Instead, many will feel betrayed, short-changed and very angry. They’ll be in no mood to help Fred grow richer on the back of racing. To warn them a rebellion will lead to a volley of shots in their own feet, won’t matter; racing is well used to aiming in that direction.