COMMITTEE members at the troubled South Australian Harness Racing Club have been issued an ultimatum by the state’s governing body.
Frustrated by the club’s management in “recent times”, Harness Racing SA has declared it will cease all race meetings at the venue if the committee fails to resign.
HRSA’s statement gives the club’s committee until the close of business on April 5 to vacate their positions.
Should the committee refuse the demand racing at the track will be “suspended indefinitely” as of April 9.
“The Board of Harness Racing SA has today advised the Committee of the South Australian Harness Racing Club, the principal club responsible for racing at Globe Derby Park, that it had lost confidence in the SAHRC Committee’s ability to properly oversee and administer the affairs of the club and harness racing at the state’s premier track,” HRSA statement reads.
“In consequence, HRSA has requested that the current SAHRC Committee resign, to be replaced by a new interim Committee to HRSA’s satisfaction.”
Along with poor general management, HRSA has stated it is “particularly concerned with the direction being pursued by the SAHRC Committee.”
Among HRSA’s issues are the large financial losses the club has reported for the past decade, particularly during the last few years.
“HRSA also hold significant concerns regarding the formidable operating losses reported by the club over the past decade,” HRSA statement reads.
“These total in excess of $5.5million in the period 2009 – 2018, however, even more concerning is that in the past three years alone the losses incurred exceed $2.2million. Last season the club reported an operating loss of in excess of $890,000.
“These losses exclude the annual HRSA contribution which is in excess of $400,000 pa. Therefore, when the HRSA contributions are factored the industry losses for each of the past four years exceed $1million.”
HRSA has also called into question the club’s “utilisation of HRSA’s contributions”.
HRSA claims the funds have been used to “prop up a failing hospitality operation, being their bars and restaurant” instead of being used “for the general betterment of harness racing’s participants, namely breeders, owners, trainers and drivers”.
HRSA also has an issue with the club’s decision to sell vacate land and funding of a “speculative tavern venture.”
“HRSA also hold significant concerns regarding their promotion of the sale of the majority of club owned land to fund a highly speculative tavern venture which is proposed for club land adjacent to Port Wakefield Road,” HRSA statement reads.
“While HRSA has attempted to engage with SAHRC management over recent years, particularly with respect to an improved governance and cost structure through implementation of the `Cunningham Report’, these attempts have proved frustrating and ultimately futile.
“It is worth noting that the key recommendation of the report was: ‘The harness racing industry accepts, and as an immediate priority, works towards achieving the optimal governance arrangement for the future for Harness Racing in SA which is to have one governing and racing body and that body is HRSA’
“HRSA has now reached the point where it must intervene and arrest the distressing level of financial poor performance and protect the SA harness racing industry from further harm.
“It is HRSA’s clear view that in order to move forward there should be one body which oversees harness racing at Globe Derby Park and that this be created through HRSA and SAHRC merging as recommended in the Cunningham Report.
“Given the rejection of this concept by the SAHRC Committee, it is appropriate that they resign and allow HRSA and the new interim Committee to work on a merger proposal for the betterment of all stakeholders in the SA harness racing industry.
“It is also HRSA’s steadfast view that the monies currently utilised by the SAHRC Committee to subsidise an unprofitable bar and catering operation be directly applied for the benefit of the industry and its participants through increased stakes and updated racing and training tracks.
“HRSA understands that the measures announced today will cause disruption and disappointment to some, however, the situation of substantive and escalating losses cannot continue and changes must be enacted to arrest the very unsatisfactory performance of the SAHRC Committee.”
Several attempts were made to contact club President Richard Miller for comment.