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Horsemen's Group in turmoil after resignation

THE Horsemen's Group was on Tuesday rocked by the resignation of Philip Freedman, who had previously been announced as the successor to chairman Paul Dixon when he steps down at the end of 2012.

BHA chief executive Paul Bittar said his organisation regretted the decision of Freedman, who he noted advocated "working constructively" with other elements of the industry. Bittar also said the current structure of the Horsemen's Group was "not proving fully functional".

Freedman, an owner-breeder and a former Thoroughbred Breeders' Association chairman and British Horseracing Board director, cited irresolvable differences between himself and chief executive Alan Morcombe as the reason for his resignation.

Philip Freedman

Philip Freedman: resignation

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham  

In a statement Philip Freedman said: "Following discussions between members of the board of the Horsemen's Group I am resigning from the board with immediate effect.

"It has become clear in recent days that the differences between the chief executive and myself over how the HG should best act in the interests of its members are so great that we cannot continue working together.

"The board has confirmed its support of its chief executive, as is its right, and accordingly I have no option other than to resign from it. I have confirmed my resignation in writing to the chief executive."

The Horsemen's Group has in recent weeks grappled with a funding crisis. Having originally received a start-up loan of £500,000 from the BHA the HG was subsequently refused a further £300,000 loan by the Levy Board.

Following a board meeting last week Morcombe appeared confident the HG's funding crisis was close to being resolved.

However, Freedman said: "Attempting to find a solution to the funding issue facing the HG in recent weeks has been a challenging task and I regret that it has not been possible for me to see it through to a conclusion.

"I am grateful to all the board members for their efforts in this matter, and particularly grateful to those members, and their associations, who share my philosophy of how the group should best operate in the future.

"How they respond to this announcement is of course a matter for them, but I have no doubt they will continue to work to rebuild the relationship with both the sport's governing body and other stakeholders, which is essential not just for the administration of racing, but also for the interests of all horsemen."

In a statement, BHA chief executive Bittar said: "We regret Philip Freedman's decision to resign. He was advocating working constructively with other groups in the industry, and clearly constructive, collaborative discussion is the best hope we have to resolve a number of key issues.

"The BHA supports the concept of horsemen being collectively represented but, unfortunately, the Group's current governance model is not proving fully functional. However, ultimately the issue of governance and funding of the Horsemen's Group is a matter for their members.

"In the meantime, BHA will continue to work directly with the members of the BHA, namely the ROA, TBA, RCA and Licensed Persons, in order to progress discussions on a range of pressing matters, such as the 2013 race programme and the introduction of sustainable and enforceable race values.”

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