Monday, October 03, 2022Contact: Andrew Chesser
56th IFHA Conference Focused on Building Engagement and Other Future Challenges

The 56th International Conference of Horseracing Authorities, organized by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), was held today in Paris, France. After two years of convening virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the in-person gathering was focused on reuniting members, highlighting the work of the Federation, and orienting the industry on key current and future issues.

The first International Conference of Horseracing Authorities was organized and hosted by the Société d'Encouragement in Paris, France, on October 9, 1967. Since 1994, the annual conference has been organized by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) at France Galop. The Japan Racing Association (JRA) became the official partner of the Conference beginning in 2021.

The first meeting had 14 attendees from nine countries. Today’s Conference convened delegates from more than 40 different countries with a number of other racing executives and media members in attendance.

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chair of the IFHA, highlighted in his opening remarks the key challenges and opportunities confronting the industry, including the issues of integrity and fan engagement, which were also reflected in the Conference’s programme. 

“Integrity lies at the foundation of our sport and must inform every decision that we make,” he said. “The pandemic has inherently changed the way that fans and punters enjoy and participate in horse racing. A good digital customer experience is key, and the general trend of digital evolution further emphasizes that all industry players need to adapt quickly to emerging technologies and behaviours.”

Throughout the day, topics that were presented included the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) in the United States, broadening horse racing’s appeal globally, addressing climate change through sport, and learnings from the pandemic.

Commenting on HISA, Engelbrecht-Bresges stated: “The introduction of HISA represents a monumental shift in the regulatory approach to racing in the U.S. Clearly, the Federation welcomes this approach, as it strives to pursue its key objective of international harmonisation of racing rules.  It is significant that the U.S. authorities have taken reference to the International Agreement in the development of their regulations, demonstrating the impact and influence of the Federation in shaping and supporting the highest standards of integrity in all jurisdictions.”

“The American Jockey Club will continue to use our human and financial resources to protect the integrity of the game and to grow the sport,” said Stuart S. Janney III, Chairman of the U.S. Jockey Club, during the Conference’s first session. “We enthusiastically support the work of HISA.”

Lisa Lazarus, CEO of HISA, then provided an overview of the establishment and work of HISA, its current challenges, and its future plans.

Following the HISA conversation, an interview by Rishi Persad of Tony Parker focused on fan engagement. Then an in-person panel featuring Emmanuel Vacher, the Chief Marketing Officer of the PMU, and Julien Levilain, Manager Director of Buzzman, the ad agency responsible for a number of PMU campaigns, continued to look into innovative ways to widen interest in the sport.

“Everyone, the vision they have of horse racing is that it’s for billionaires,” said Parker. “They think normal people can’t come into the horse world. It really is the total opposite. How can we change that image and get everyone involved? Use social media and try to do different stuff. I want to bring something different and try to make it more fun for younger people for people to come and watch horse racing.

“My friends, because I am on social media, they are like, ‘Okay, how do you go into this world?’ If you are worried about it or you think it’s too much money, just start with 5%. Go slow and you can learn the horse world. We have to do a lot more if we want a bigger audience. You have to go to them and promote it.”

Later panels included Clarisse Magnin-Mallez, Senior Partner at McKinsey, and Brant Dunshea, the British Horseracing Authority’s Chief Regulatory Officer and Project Executive Sponsor for the report on Environmental and Sustainability in British Horseracing, who presented on climate change.
“Global interest on sustainability in sports has been following an upward trend even before Covid-19,” said Magnin-Mallez. “The sporting industry has a unique opportunity to shape a credible story of sustainability. They need to enable consumers to make the right choice, even though financially it might not pay off yet.”

Additionally, the impacts of Covid-19 were discussed by Masayuki Goto, President and CEO of the Japan Racing Association; Vee Moodley, Chief Executive Officer, The National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa; and Daniel Krüger, Managing Director, Deutscher Galopp e.V. (Germany).
“The most important thing JRA has experienced through the pandemic is that the value chain of racing cycle must not stop,” said Goto. “If any one of the cycles of breeding, breaking, training and racing is missing, the whole wheel comes to stop. So, racing authorities need to give priority on how to keep this cycle running and to take appropriate measures according to the situation.”

Near the end of the conference, Carly Dixon, Executive General Manager, Stakeholder, Customer & Corporate Affairs, Racing Victoria, presented on the upcoming 39th Asian Racing Conference (ARC), which will be held in Melbourne in February 2023.

During the General Assembly, Engelbrecht-Bresges took the opportunity to commend the Laboratory of Racing Chemistry (LRC) once again in becoming the sixth IFHA Reference Laboratory, with a presentation of the appointment certificate to Goto, who accepted on behalf of the LRC.

The Conference also paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away in September at the age of 96. As one of the sport’s finest ambassadors, she was an ardent supporter of international racing and visited many of the world’s greatest racecourses.

A live video stream of the Open Forum of the International Conference of Horseracing Authorities will be available on the IFHA’s website.  A replay of the live video stream and presentations will be available in the days following the event.

About IFHA

The IFHA is the global leader for the international sport of Thoroughbred racing, seeking to promote all facets of the worldwide sport; protect the welfare of the equine and human athlete; and protect and grow its global social and economic significance for current and future generations.

Major areas of the IFHA’s activities include:

    • Making and amending the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering (the IABRW)
    • Policy development relating to welfare and safety of horses and riders
    • International Race Planning and Grading (“black type”)
    • World Rankings
    • The fight against Equine Prohibited Substances and Practices
    • Harmonization of Racing Rules
    • Certification of IFHA Reference Labs
    • Fostering commercial development of the racing industry globally

The IFHA is a foundation member with Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) of the International Horse Sports Confederation and is affiliated to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).

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