All change and no change as Turf Club transition to limited company looms
Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan says stakeholders will notice no perceptible difference when the new regulatory body for Irish racing – which will function under the auspices of a limited company – comes into being on New Year's Day.
In the wake of legislative changes made in the Horse Racing Ireland Act 2016, the possibility was created for the Turf Club to protect its private members from personal liability.
That prospect will now become a reality via a company titled the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, with a website address of ihrb.ie.
While acknowledging it is an evolution that will witness the Turf Club brand diminish, Egan insists the new format will replicate the existing operations as much as it is possible.
'Everything will continue as it is'
"It's a big change," Egan said the transition, "but after 227 years of regulating the sport through a private club it's certainly a much more appropriate structure for the regulation of the sport.
"I don't think people are going to notice very many changes at all, in so far as everything will continue as is, but rather than the Turf Club carrying out the regulatory functions they will be carried out by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board."
The board will comprise six directors, three each from the Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, which is currently responsible for the regulation of jumps racing.
Peter Allen, senior steward of the INHSC, will be the first chairman of the new board, and he will be joined by the INHSC deputy senior steward Martin O'Donnell and Dr Colm O'Flaherty.
The Turf Club directors will be Harry McCalmont (vice-chairman), Caroline Corballis and John Power.
Incoming chairman Allen said of the pending changes: "Racing, both as a sport and an industry, faces many challenges today. Irish racing has always had an excellent reputation and it is vital that continues to be the case. The new company structure will ensure we continue to invest in the integrity services that underpin that reputation.”
Desire to indemnify
Of the committees that convene for appeals and referrals, Egan added: "The current committee structure will remain in place, so the appeals body, referrals committees and compliance and regulation committee will all remain in place, but they will be run through the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board."
Having had to contest a number of cases in both the High Court and the Supreme Court in recent times, the desire to indemnify Turf Club members was part of the motivation to create the new company.
"It was to a point," Egan noted, "because you can obviously insure against risk, which we do anyway. It was just felt that a more appropriate structure for the regulation of horseracing in the current environment is a limited company rather than a private club."
The Turf Club will continue to administer the various jockeys' charities and stable staff pension schemes and will retain its one-third share in the Curragh racecourse, while the INHSC will continue its role in the governance of point-to-point racing.
Welcoming the IHRB, Meta Osborne, who will be replaced by McCalmont as senior steward of the Turf Club when her two-year term expires on December 31, paid tribute to the Turf Club's role in protecting the good name of Irish racing.
"The Turf Club has served Irish racing well for more than 200 years," she said. "I am confident that the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board will raise these standards to an even higher level."
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