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Time for action at ARC

Published: 
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
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The new board of management at the Arima Race Club (ARC) has been installed and the need for action by it could not be greater.

As most readers should be aware, I was a member of the prior board until opting to resign to give an incoming committee a clear mandate. Since I subscribe to the principle of collective responsibility, my tenure on that board opened my eyes to many of the issues confronting the industry and the entrenched obstacles to overcoming same.

I have remained silent on some of the obstacles until now and while I do not intend to list them at this moment, there are a few that the new board should ensure it tackle very early.

Corporate governance. The closing days of the prior board were characterised by public infighting because of the failure to establish and adhere to agreed board positions. The issue that hit the headline was a decision to grant a waiver to one stakeholder. A decision that was agreed at a board meeting but subsequently attempted to be queried.

The sequence of events then spiralled. The new board should establish a clear guideline re the decision-making process and the expectations of each director once a decision has been reached.

The board could seek for unanimity but this is sometimes impossible, majority decisions mean that there will be a minority opposing view. The conduct of the minority members should be clearly articulated.

Guiding principles. The guiding principles for the conduct of the club need to be clearly defined. For example, is the objective to maximise the betting turnover? To increase the well-being of all stakeholders? To ensure maximum fields in each race? To look after the interest of members? Are decisions to be focused on the short, medium or long-term interests of the sport? Is there a definition for each term?

The board needs to agree in advance to its guiding principles. This is important because it will allow each decision to be framed within the context of its impact on these principles.

Handicapping system. One of the main challenges confronting the industry is the handicapping system and by extension, the framing of local races. The local handicappers remain a law unto themselves, seemingly unanswerable to anyone - not the ARC, the TTRA or the BLB. There is no working appeal process.

In spite of numerous requests to reverse the position re the non-awarding of a rating to horses with less than three starts, the position remains unchanged because the handicappers do not believe it should be done. Policies such as this need to be directed by a governing body.

At the same time, we have framers of races who continue to believe that removal of the lower eligibility rating for each race will be to the disadvantage of someone. That makes little sense. How can owners having an option to enter their horse for any race be a bad thing?

The often heard argument relate to horses having to carry overweight and be at a disadvantage or races being "padded" by lower-rated horses. The first argument is really a choice by the connections of each horse. The second could be handled by policy. Most territories do not have a lower rating band. Having more horses compete must be better than the alternative.

Revenue options. A major issue for the new board will be what happens with the surplus land owned by the club. The options are sale, develop on its own, and enter into a joint venture partnership to develop or some combination of the three. The decision as to the correct route should depend on the guiding principle agree as per above.

Making that decision before the guiding principle has been agreed could result in an incorrect decision and of course will lead to several issues surrounding transparency. Already there are those that believe the "Land" sharks have circled the wagon looking for gains and prosperity, in buying the land at one price and under one assumption of usage, and waiting a short while and selling it onwards at a much higher value based on a change of usage form.

This would certainly leave an unhealthy taste in anyone’s mouth and one is certain that both the Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee Scoon, may rightfully raise questions with the newly formed Betting Levy Board.

Ultimately the above are only ideas, and there will be better ones along the way but if the goal remains the growth and prosperity of a sport loved by many, then the future will get brighter. There will always be difficult persons in any arena but the task ahead must be to attempt to change their mindset.

It is interesting and maybe even perplexing to realise that horse racing in this country, is very much, like a popular game, we all played when children, which is "Musical Chairs".

Good luck to all. We need the board to be successful.

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