THE following is a statement by the Presidents of the Victorian Harness Racing Club, Trots Clubs Victoria, Victorian Harness Racing Trainers and Drivers Association and the Victorian Square Trotters Association following the recent announcement by Harness Racing Victoria of cost saving initiatives, including prizemoney reductions of $3.9m, on August 2, 2023:
We have significant concerns as to the management, performance and oversight of our Harness Racing Industry in Victoria that has led to prizemoney cuts and required significant cost reductions as announced by HRV on 2 August.
Collectively the Presidents of the Kindred Bodies wrote to the Chairman and CEO of Harness Racing Victoria back on 9 June 2023 outlining concerns and requesting a meeting as a matter of priority to discuss such concerns and the plans that HRV has to address these issues.
We are extremely disappointed that despite follow up requests and the perilous financial position that HRV finds itself in that such a meeting has not been facilitated by HRV or taken place in the eight weeks since that request.
We reject the notion that HRV consulted extensively with our Kindred Bodies in relation to the restructuring of prizemoney leading up to the recent announcement. HRV may have sought out the opinions of individuals within the Industry however extensive consultation with the Kindred Bodies that we represent has not taken place.
The Kindred Bodies that we represent cannot understand how HRV have ended up in such a dire financial position despite receiving substantial financial support from the State Government in recent years. This position is not reached overnight and we question the financial oversight, accountability and lack of earlier intervention by those in charge of the sport that has led our Industry to be in such an ominous financial position.
We have major concerns that HRV has been seemingly overstaffed and unacceptably inefficient with excessive administration costs in comparison to other State Controlling Bodies in recent years. In the 2022 financial year, HRNSW had 45 full time employees and employments costs of $5.6M. In the same year, HRV had 100 full time employees and their employment costs (excluding Tabcorp Park, Melton) were $14.1M.
We question why HRV employment costs are 2.5 times higher (an extra $8.5M in employment costs) than that of HRNSW and why the number of full-time employees under HRV’s control is more than double that of HRNSW?
It’s obvious that a more efficient administration structure leads to more funds being available for prizemoney with HRNSW having minimum stake levels in the Country of $6,900 and $9,600 compared to HRV’s $4,500 and $7,000 respectively.
We note that a number of Harness Racing States in Australia and also New Zealand have recently announced positive stake money increases and appear to be on the way up. So, we find it extremely disappointing that now in Victoria, cuts to prizemoney are required when the Controlling Body here has continued to grow its administration base in recent times with seemingly little concern as to the financial position of the industry or the stagnant returns to Industry stakeholders.
All of this paints a very bleak picture as to the management, performance and oversight of the Harness Racing Industry in Victoria in recent years. We note that the Government appointed Board of HRV have been in their roles for many years now.
In recent weeks, the Presidents of the Kindred Bodies have been seeking a meeting with the Racing Minister Anthony Carbines to discuss our concerns and the poor financial position that Harness Racing Victoria finds itself in. It is our view that Harness Racing Victoria requires new competent, capable and passionate people on the Board (appointed in consultation with the Industry) to work with new CEO Matt Isaacs to turn our Industry around and deliver better financial outcomes for our hard working Harness Racing participants and stakeholders.
Emmy Mazzetti – President Victorian Harness Racing Club
Paul Rowse – President Trots Clubs Victoria
Anthony Butt – President Victorian Harness Racing Trainers and Drivers Association
Anne-Maree Conroy – President Victorian Square Trotters Association