Rust: trainers must not subsidise businesses by treating staff unfairly
There should be fewer trainers in Britain if some are unable to give their staff proper pay and working conditions, BHA chief executive Nick Rust warned on Monday.
Rust, speaking at York racecourse at the first of four industry roadshows this week, said trainers must not subsidise their businesses by treating staff unfairly.
He also revealed the sport was looking at introducing breaks for both codes in this year's fixture list process.
The discussion followed comments from Sky Bet trading director Ronnie Whelan, who had told the audience his firm would see 40 per cent greater stakes on the evening card at Wolverhampton than they would on the afternoon cards taking place the same day, and that every year ten per cent of betting shop punters were moving online.
National Trainers Federation chief executive Rupert Arnold said his members could work towards creating "a good, positive working environment" but need understanding from the rest of the industry about the schedule they face, a point backed up by trainer Bryan Smart.
Rust acknowledged it was "not easy to make all the ends meet," adding: "You have already heard from Ronnie the shape and the future of where betting is going and how much revenue is generated at times that might once have been called – and might still be regarded as – unsociable hours because that's when people want to bet.
"Our industry is not just run for betting, but 45 per cent of our income comes from the betting customer directly or indirectly.
"So if we want to be able to race and support the size of industry we have now then we have to take that into account."
Rust said he believed more could be done in terms of the fixture list to help racing's participants.
"One of the key areas of focus for this year is to look at proper breaks by code and to see if we can build that in," he said.
"The difficulty is in enforcing that because of the belief that certain fixtures are owned by racecourses and they have a right to race on certain days."
However, Rust questioned the viability of trainers' businesses who were not able to give staff the right terms and conditions.
He said: "There is some consolidation that needs to happen in the industry, I believe, to ensure we can meet the right conditions for our people.
"I'm sorry if that's not a popular thing to say, but we cannot scrimp on providing the right working conditions for our people and the right pay and conditions to attract them."
Afterwards Rust said the vast majority of Britain's 526 licensed trainers did not cut corners in order to make their businesses work.
He added: "Our people are important. We need to make sure we employ best practice and look after them, and if a training business isn't able to do that then maybe it shouldn't be in business.
"If some consolidation is required in order to ensure more training businesses are viable, if that's what the market ends up deciding, that's what it will decide."
There was good news for the industry as Whelan explained its continued importance to bookmakers.
"For us, horseracing is very significant," he said. "Something like 66 per cent of our customer base place a bet on horseracing, so the success of horseracing and growth of horseracing is integral to what we do."
Whelan said the average age of a punter on racing was 41, compared to 30 on football, and that racing needed to engage in discussions about areas like evening racing and providing more information, such as sectional timing, to attract punters.
He added: "We've got to engage in that discussion to bring the product forward from where it is now to compete with football betting."
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