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TBA chairman calls for radical overhaul in prize-money structure

Julian Richmond-Watson addressed members in an online AGM on Sunday

Julian Richmond-Watson: "Our prize-money model has to be radically overhauled."
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Julian Richmond-Watson, chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, has spoken of the need for a radical overhaul of the prize-money structure in Britain if the future demands of the racing programme are to be met.

During his chairman's address as part of the TBA's 103rd AGM, which was hosted online on Sunday, Richmond-Watson said: "British breeders need support. GBB [Great British Bonus scheme] is a great start but if racecourses wish to run the size of programme they run now, and some have ambitions to run a larger programme, then they will need us to maintain and produce more foals on the ground.

"That will only happen if breeders feel confident about the future; confidence is everything in breeding.

"Extraordinarily, the worldwide foal crop of thoroughbreds has dropped by 29 per cent since 2006, and we can expect further falls in the coming years unless there is a real willingness to support breeders, both in Britain and internationally.

"Our prize-money model has to be radically overhauled, with racecourse media rights money now well ahead of the levy board's contribution to prize-money. We have to re-examine our prize-money structure and support from top to bottom. The TBA will be behind that sort of restructure."

Participating in and influencing industry decisions on prize-money was identified as one of five key areas of focus for the TBA board and executive team in 2021, Richmond-Watson said.

He added: "The major and larger owners and breeders are looking at opportunities abroad, not surprisingly, and we must keep the prize-money, as well as the prestige, of our major races attractive to these and new investors in our sport.

"Every sport needs a premium level to drive interest and as breeders we need to see horses properly tested, so we should always strive to make the best races attractive and competitive internationally. It's vital that we test horses on the track, and that's one of the reasons we pressed so hard to get racing back up and running."

The other areas of focus outlined included: maintaining and developing relationships with key industry and government figures; providing further support for breeders, including development of the GBB scheme; and improving the TBA's digital services, including the launch of a new e-learning platform to provide greater access to industry training.

Brexit difficulties

Brexit was also discussed during the chairman's address, with Richmond-Watson noting that, while the TBA was working in breeders' interests, they could be set to suffer some major repercussions in the near future. 

He said: "Brexit needs resolving, and as I record this Brexit has not been resolved. We continue to model all the various scenarios, some of which could have serious consequences for the breeding season.

"Once, and if, the situation becomes clearer we will send out advice and will try and make sure you all get the best advice possible, but make no mistake, this is not going to be easy.

"In the meantime, we're working with Weatherbys on organising the registration of stud premises and are filing the horse movement app."

He added: "Whatever happens, moving horses between countries is going to require more regulation and more process than we have been used to in the past. It is going to be more time consuming and more irritating and difficult." 

Later during the AGM, Richmond-Watson was questioned over what the TBA is doing in preparation for the end of the tripartite agreement.

Having noted that there has been "remarkably little progress" on a wider Brexit agreement, he explained that the TBA was ready to send out information explaining what actions breeders should take and when they should be taken. 

He added: "I should report, and we have sent out the message, don't try to move horses in the first two weeks in January. The customs posts in Ireland and Britain are not ready so we don't know what would happen in any case.

"There will be a lighter touch for horses coming into Britain, but for horses going to Ireland I think there are going to be all sorts of difficult problems to overcome.

"We will send out information as soon as we can. We will probably have to start sending it out next week, regardless of whether there has been an agreement or not over Brexit.

"We are up and ready to go, but please make no mistake - this is going to make life much more difficult sending horses into Europe." 

Chairman's term increased

The TBA also announced Richmond-Watson would stay on as chairman until 2022 after a members' vote to increase the chairman's term from six to eight years was passed.  

Deputy chairman Philip Newton said: "It's a turbulent time and the board believes it's in the best interests of the TBA to provide a degree of flexibility around terms of office to ensure the association can retain key skills needed, where and when necessary.

"Implementing this change will enable the TBA to provide stability in its governance and leadership when operating in unusual climates.

"It is essential that the TBA has robust representation at this time, and Julian's in-depth and strategic knowledge of the industry is vital for government affairs and industry steering groups to ensure the best possible outcome for breeders.”

GBB Bonus

The association reaffirmed its ongoing support for breeders with the newly created Great British Bonus creating further opportunities for British-bred fillies. 

The scheme has paid out more than £1 million in prizes so far after gaining the support of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, having started on racing's return from lockdown in June. 

The TBA also announced the appointment of two new board members in West Moor Stud's Kate Sigsworth and Laundry Cottage Stud owner Colin Bryce.  

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We have to re-examine our prize-money structure and support from top to bottom. The TBA will be behind that sort of restructure
E.W. Terms