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    Structure and Governance of Horse Racing in the UK: From Jockey Club Aristocracy to Betting Committee Pragmatism
Structure and Governance of Horse Racing in the UK: From Jockey Club Aristocracy to Betting Committee Pragmatism

Structure and Governance of Horse Racing in the UK: From Jockey Club Aristocracy to Betting Committee Pragmatism

The United Kingdom boasts a total of 61 active horse racecources, distributed as follows: 51 in England, 5 in Scotland, 3 in Wales, and 2 in Northern Ireland. This expansive industry engages a substantial workforce and allocates significant resources. The UK alone accommodates over 13,500 horse owners, with approximately 14,000 horses in their prime racing condition, trained by around 600 licensed trainers. The country registers 440 professional jockeys and approximately 300 amateur riders. The annual attendance at racecourses  reaches 4.83 million. 

The harmonious functioning of the extensive machinery within the UK horse racing industry relies on the collaboration of three principal entities, each advocating for its interests in the realm.

• Foremost among them is the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the primary regulatory body overseeing horse racing in the nation. The BHA manages races, issues licenses, enforces regulations, and more.

• The second significant contingent is the Racecourse Association (RCA).

• The third collective, known as the Horsemens Group (HG) or Thoroughbred Group, comprises organizations that represent the concerns of horse owners, trainers, jockeys, horse breeders, and stable staff.

Photo from the Jockey Club website: https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/the-racing/our-heritage/

The Jockey Club: Blending Tradition and Modern Collaboration in British Horse Racing

Established in 1750, the Jockey Club stands as the oldest institution within the British horse racing industry, wielding influence through ownership of 15 racecourses. As a prominent member of the Racecourse Association (RCA), it remains a pivotal force in the sector's evolution.

Originally founded as an exclusive enclave for the elite in 1750, the The Jockey Club catered to the horse racing enthusiasts of high society for an extended period. Serving as a unifying force for diverse groups of horse racing aficionados, it established a centralized system with shared regulations, instigated progressive changes, and significantly contributed to the overall advancement of equestrian sports.

The aristocratic influence within the club is underscored by its close ties with the royal family, with Queen Elizabeth serving as an honorary member and patron of both the Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association. Governed by a Royal Charter, the club holds a distinctive status, with all profits reinvested in the industry. 

Despite its historically exclusive nature hindering widespread industry development, a shift occurred in 1993 when management transitioned to the British Horseracing Board (BHB). This change marked a period of modernisation, increased promotional efforts, and commercial development.

In 2007, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) assumed industry leadership following the merger of the British Horseracing Council and the Horseracing Regulation Authority, a Jockey Club division. While formally distancing itself from industry management, the Jockey Club retains control over a quarter of the country's racecourses, hosting four of the nation's five classic races, along with prestigious events like the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National at Aintree.

Operating The Jockey Club Estates, a property management company, and overseeing 5,000 acres of land with training facilities, the National Stud Farm, and the charitable organisation Racing Welfare, the club's enterprises directly employ approximately 650 individuals. 

British Horseracing Authority (BHA): Unifying and Regulating the Equine Industry

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) serves as the central hub that brings together all stakeholders within the horse racing industry. Tasked with the comprehensive administration and regulation of the entire sector, the BHA plays a crucial role in creating and adjusting race schedules, issuing instructions and manuals, ensuring compliance with rules and standards, and providing essential medical and veterinary care. A strong emphasis is placed on personnel selection and training, encompassing dedicated programs for jockeys and trainers, as well as broader educational courses.

Photo: https://racecourseassociation.co.uk/
Awarding the race winner

Racecourse Association (RCA): Orchestrating Race Events and Ensuring Excellence

The Racecourse Association (RCA) actively participates in race planning, setting standings, distributing prize money, and ensuring track safety. Additionally, the RCA implements best practices in racecourse operations. Notably, the association annually presents the industry's sole award for excellence in turf care, a prestigious competition open to every racetrack in the country. 

Racehorse Owners' Association (ROA): Advocacy for Owners' Interests

The Racehorse Owners' Association (ROA) is dedicated to promoting and safeguarding the interests of horse owners. Members contribute dues and, in return, receive crucial support and membership benefits when involved in the purchase and maintenance of racehorses. 

National Trainers' Federation (NTF): Supporting and Informing Trainers

The National Trainers' Federation (NTF) operates under British Horseracing Rules, safeguarding the interests of trainers while serving as a reliable source of information and support. Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (TBA): Advocacy for Breeders' Interests

The Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (TBA) champions the interests of breeders within both the industry and government. Engaged in enhancing the quality of thoroughbred horses, implementing best practices at stud farms, and conducting veterinary research, the TBA provides breeders with crucial support and guidance. The association actively contributes to improving the breed through consultations and hotlines. 

Photo from website: https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/the-racing/racing-news/

Professional Jockeys Association (PJA): Advocacy and Support for Jockeys

The Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) plays a pivotal role in providing legal and advisory assistance to jockeys, particularly in matters related to employment, contracts, and labour disputes. Additionally, the PJA offers various accident insurance schemes, financial management plans, and a pension scheme to ensure the well-being of jockeys. 

Weatherbys Group of Companies: Custodians of Racing Heritage

Established in 1770, the Weatherbys Group, led by the Wetherby family for seven generations, has been a custodian of racing heritage. Originally appointed secretary of the Jockey Club, James Wetherby published the enduring General Stud Book in 1791. Under contract with the BHA, Weatherbys maintains the General Stud Book, registering Thoroughbred horses in Great Britain and Ireland. The group, encompassing Weatherbys Bank and a genomic testing laboratory in Ireland, collaborates closely with stakeholders and is entrusted to run races by the BHA. 

Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB): Government Support for Racing

The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), a non-departmental government body under the Department of Culture and Sport, oversees the betting levy system. Department for Culture, Media and Sport Since the legalisation of bookmakers in 1960, the HBLB collects taxes on gross profits, contributing to the treasury. These funds, mandated by the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, play a crucial role in the development of horse racing, supporting the prize fund, breed improvement projects, veterinary medicine, education, and racecourse reconstruction loans.

Supporting Horse Racing Through Challenges

In response to challenges, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21, the HBLB stepped in to support racetracks facing financial strains. The council, borrowing £21.5 million from the Government's Sports Support Fund, ensured the continued flourishing of horse racing. The collaborative efforts of passionate individuals, both amateurs and professionals, along with the well-defined division of functions among various groups under unified leadership, contribute to the thriving state of horse racing in the United Kingdom. This effective business model successfully navigates challenges and promises continued delight for fans of the sport.

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