The annual conference of the ATA Federal Executive was held in Melbourne again this year on Derby Day Eve. Delegates representing ATA State Branches met to discuss a variety of issues and receive a report on the operations of the ATA over the past racing season.
ATA Federal President Colin Alderson was again elected unopposed to the position, while Vice Presidents Colin Webster and Leon Macdonald were also returned unopposed to their respective positions.
The funding of the racing industry in all States was the main focus of the discussions, with the Federal Executive expressing its frustration and concern at the absence of a national approach to the issue of a product fee to be paid by corporate bookmakers and betting exchanges for the use of the thoroughbred racing wagering product and use of race fields. The racing industry in all States is facing a massive challenge to improve its revenue and funding streams in the face of intense competition for the wagering dollar from sports betting, gaming and the technology based modern wagering products. With wagering growth from the industry wagering partners - the pari-mutuel TAB’s - slowing down, it has exposed the racing industry’s reliance on these traditional sources of revenue. It has also highlighted the urgent need to identify new sources of revenue and ensure that revenue from a nationally legislated product fee from corporate bookmakers and betting exchanges is maximised.
The rising costs of racing and the failure of prize money to offset some of these costs was also highlighted, with the ultimate aim of reducing industry imposed costs of nominations, acceptances and other ancillary charges. Apart from directly reducing the costs of racing, the benefits to trainers through a significant reduction in administration costs and overheads will substantially reduce the costs of running a training operation and greatly improve trainers’ cash flows.
The Federal Executive also heard that trainers, as employers in their own right, were setting their training fees substantially under the ATA recommended rates in all states. While it is understood and accepted that it is both a free and competitive market place, Trainers are strongly urged to set their training fees as close as practicable to the recommended ATA rates, so that they are not leaving themselves exposed financially.
The ATA Insurance and Risk Manager Mike Kirby and Andrew Nichol representing the ATA Public Liability and Personal Accident Insurance Provider Jardine Lloyd Thompson, presented an overview of this area. It is clear that in this environment of stringent OH&S scrutiny and workplace legislation, the racing industry and in particular trainers are required to be extremely vigilant in minimising the risk environment to themselves, their staff and their horses. The services provided to Members through Mike Kirby have proven to be extremely beneficial in understanding what is a very complex and potentially high risk area to the viability of many training businesses.
The Federal Executive strongly acknowledged and endorsed the continuing successful operation of Racing Supplies, which has maintained the popular service of providing members with a range of veterinary products, feeds, saddlery and equipment at discounted prices. Our retail operation provides the financial returns which enables the ATA to operate as a totally independent body in the Australian racing industry, without any subsidy from a governing body, and to provide the range of important services to our members.
Two important initiatives – the Members Merchant Plan through Westpac which provides significantly lower merchant fees for card transactions for members, and the Gold Fleet Vehicle Discount Plan for members purchasing Toyota Motor Vehicles and Hino Trucks, have proven to be extremely popular with members as evidenced by their take-up and purchase rate. The Gold Fleet discount arrangement is ground breaking in the Australian racing industry and again demonstrates the strength and credibility of the ATA.
In closing, Colin Alderson praised the efforts of all Interstate delegates who give their time to genuinely work for the betterment of racehorse trainers.