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Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

Simon Bazalgette dismisses MCC job speculation

Also claims racecourse-run pool betting could generate more money for racing

Jockey Club group chief executive Simon Bazalgette is a member of the project steering board examining pool betting
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Simon Bazalgette insists he has no intention of leaving his position as chief executive of the Jockey Club amid speculation he features on a list of candidates to fill the same role at the Marylebone Cricket Club.

With Derek Brewer set to leave the MCC next winter, both Bazalgette and Racecourse Media Group's Richard FitzGerald have been linked with the post.

However, speaking following yesterday's fourth and final BHA Roadshow event in Newmarket, Bazalgette rejected the suggestion he could make the jump to cricket.

"That is the first I have heard about it," he responded. "I'm very happy at the Jockey Club and to be involved in horseracing - I have no idea what other people are thinking about other jobs."

Bazalgette had earlier taken part in a 'Question Time' style panel at the Rowley Mile, where he claimed a racecourse-run pool betting operation could generate between £15 to 20 million of revenue for the sport, an increase on the current amount taken from the Tote, run by Betfred, which was most recently reported at £12.3m.

A number of Britain's courses have teamed up to explore the option of a pool operation, with Betfred's exclusive licence following its purchase of the Tote from the government in 2011 due to expire in July 2018.

"The Tote currently puts around £13 million a year into racing and we think we can increase that to £15 to 20 million," said Bazalgette, adding he would like to see a significant portion of such revenues put into increasing prize-money.

Bazalgette said the project steering group, with betting industry veteran Neil Goulden as its chairman designate, remains in dialogue with Betfred boss Fred Done but accepts a deal that could see racecourses work with the firm or buy the Tote outright is unlikely.

However, Bazalgette insists the group would not be afraid to compete with Done and said: "If you look at the three main areas that really drive pools, one is on course and we could control that.

"Another is internationally, which we could control too. When we are selling pictures to other jurisdictions, they always want a tote option combined with it and I think it just works much better if we own that.

"The final area is what happens in betting shops and we're very happy to compete with Fred if we have to." 

Not all of Britain's courses are involved in the project and Bazalgette told the roadshow that an announcement detailing those that are is likely to be made "in the next few weeks".

BHA chief executive Nick Rust was also appearing on the same panel and said the sport's governing body would back the combined efforts of racecourses to establish its own pool betting operation.

"The racecourses are working together on a proposition and an alternative to help ensure racing maximises this opportunity when the exclusive licence expires in the middle of 2018," he said.

"People from across the leadership group in racing are here to support the racecourses' efforts. We see it as an opportunity."

Owner and staff retention the hot topics

Yesterday's event was the fourth and final installment of the BHA's series of roadshows, which has taken in York, Musselburgh and Cheltenham in previous days as well as Newmarket.

Improving both the number of owners involved in racing, as well as their experience once they are, were major themes throughout the presentations.

In particular, BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman highlighted the fact owners of horses of average ability are seeing a recovery of only 8p in every £1 spent on keeping their horse in training, compared to an overall average across the sport of 26p.

Increased prize-money at grassroots level and an appearance money scheme, driven by funds generated by the replacement levy, were major suggestions aimed at addressing the issue.

Unsurprisingly, Newmarket saw lively discussion take place on the subject of staffing, with ways in which racing can be marketed as an attractive career high on the agenda.

Nass chief executive George McGrath expressed his desire to see a change in the working patterns of stable staff, while also calling for prize-money increases to be matched with funding for training. The issue of a lack of childcare within the industry and its impact particularly on women working in racing was also discussed as a key area in which the sport could better retain staff.

Elsewhere, Rod Street highlighted the work of Great British Racing (GBR) in promoting the sport, with particular emphasis on the In The Paddock initiative, aimed at introducing would-be owners to syndicates they might like to get involved in.

He also previewed a forthcoming campaign designed to promote the widespread free access to racecourses enjoyed by children across the country, something GBR hope to work on with courses to maximise.

I'm very happy at the Jockey Club and to be involved in horseracing - I have no idea what other people are thinking about other jobs
E.W. Terms
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