Fixtures – pass the parcel – who’ll be left holding it?

The wriggling has started.  A few weeks ago the BHA admitted it was effectively ‘powerless’ over fixtures.

Responsibility for commercialising fixtures now lies with what I will call a ‘new group’ (they seem to have no formal title) The Horsemen’s Group and the Racecourse Association.  What role the BHA will play in fixture allocation is unclear – perhaps Paul Struthers, head of communications at the BHA would care to clarify by way of leaving a  comment here?

The BHA and the ‘new group’ are now arguing in public:

Dixon, (Paul Dixon, chairman of The Horsemen’s Group) who helped develop the Horsemen’s prize-money tariff, which has resulted in some tracks downgrading races, said: “British racing must, as a matter of urgency, conduct a radical overhaul of both the fixture list and race programme – much more radical than the BHA has so far proposed – and as a result create a race programme that optimises the abilities of horses in training, creating competitive and exciting racing based on aspiration.”

Addressing this point, BHA spokesman Paul Struthers said: “We have urged the Horsemen’s Group to develop their race planning proposals for nearly a year, with little apparent progress.

“We’ll continue to encourage them and help them along the way, but it really is time for them to make progress on this and on other structural issues, rather than focusing on soundbites and PR. This will then allow us to work with them and the racecourses to find the best solution for the sport as a whole.”

Racecourse Association chief executive Stephen Atkin said: “We are working closely with the BHA and the Horsemen’s Group on the construction of next year’s fixture list and we hope the work will be concluded by the middle of next month. The issues involved are complex and include both field sizes and the financial return from fixtures.

“Also we are working with the BHA and the Horsemen’s Group on the structural review of the sport, which includes the fixture list, race programme and prizemoney, and we are part of the way through producing a joint approach on these issues.”

Full article here

I’ve criticised the BHA in the past for ceding control of fixtures, and I stand by that.  But I can understand if there’s a tingle of Schadenfreude at BHA HQ as the ‘new group’ realise the chalice they so gleefully and greedily grabbed is poisoned.  Agreeing a fixture list that will offer optimum benefit to racing via the Levy (and its replacement) is a devilish challenge in itself.  Add the explosive mix of two bodies trying to carve the list up between them to maximise their own share of revenue from media rights, gate money, sponsorship etc and you have a Labyrinth.

It will take people of substantial intellect to resolve these problems.  Nobody in the current set-up has shown any signs of possessing half the intelligence or commercial nous necessary to safeguard racing’s future.  Hence these early public exchanges as the realisation dawns on The Horsemen that imposing tariffs requires only bluff and bludgeon; facing the challenge of organising a fixture list without undermining the foundations of the industry demands surgical-level skills.

In the absence of surgeons, the panicked search for scapegoats is now on.

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