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BHA chief praises team and sets out ambitions

19 January 2015

TO "govern and serve" was how new BHA chief executive Nick Rust summarised the body's purpose on Thursday as he spoke publicly for the first time since moving to High Holborn from Ladbrokes.

Rust said the early days of his tenure would be spent meeting as many members of staff as he could, while he also acknowledged there are a number of pressing industry matters to be dealt with, starting with the imminent government consultation on a racing right as a replacement for the levy system.

Rust, speaking exclusively to the Racing Post, outlined what he felt the governing body's core responsibilities were while also paying tribute to his predecessor Paul Bittar, whose time at the BHA officially ends on Monday.

Giving his first impressions of the BHA since joining on Monday, Rust said: "I have been particularly struck by the passion and professionalism of the people I have met inside the BHA so far. These people are at the heart of what we do. They are delivering our operations and helping to make our sport what it is.

"It gives me great hope we can continue to build on the work that has been done here, particularly in the last few years under Paul's leadership, at a pivotal time for British racing."

Rust said that while he would be looking to meet at least once with all the key stakeholders in British racing in his first few weeks, his initial priority was the BHA team.

"I want to be extremely visible, I want to listen to their views and understand in detail the issues we're facing," he said.

"The BHA continues to improve its capability as we govern and serve our sport. The more we can continue to show excellence - and there have been some tremendous developments over the past few years - the more we can develop that across our core remit of administration, integrity, governance, regulation, and the more likely we'll be able to assist with the wider remit for our industry.

"In addition, however, we have a number of industry matters that have to be dealt with. We've got the government consultation coming up. The team here, myself and some others within the wider stakeholder groups have got a very important exercise to conduct through the government consultation between now and when it closes."

Bittar has been credited with repositioning the BHA as British racing's leader, and that was something Rust recognised when asked what he felt the BHA's role should be.

"We have a leadership role with some core responsibilities - governance, integrity and administration," he said. "We are also responsible for co-ordinating and leading on a number of significant responses to government and helping the sport to reach its overall aims for growth and prosperity, leading racing's effort on funding and growth of our sport so that we can increase participation, and protect and grow employment and investment in our fantastic industry."

The BHA's role in commercial matters has been the subject of debate and dispute between British racing's powerbrokers in the past and Rust said he expected the move towards a tripartite structure involving the BHA, racecourses and horsemen would clarify that.

He said: "We don't have the specific commercial responsibility throughout the sport. Racecourses clearly have an important role to play but we have a clear role in what we do have responsibility for, including the fixture list, a quite substantial amount of race planning, rules and regulation, as well as assisting in the various growth initiatives across our sport.

"We're looking forward very much to playing our part in the tripartite arrangements with our members. That's vital, and should help to further clarify responsibilities and accountabilities."

Just how much power Rust has, and how much he will have to lead by consensus, is another issue, but he said he recognised there could be no "dictator of the turf", adding: "There are different levers out there, different sources of funds."

Of his predecessor, Rust said: "Paul has achieved a number of things during his tenure and it is a privilege to come into the BHA to build on what he and his team have done here."

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