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MFHA and Point-to-Points – Arrangements for Granting of Hunter Certificates

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INTRODUCTION

The MFHA has conducted a survey of Hunts to gauge support for the proposal of a centrally collected fee for the issue of Hunter Certificates by regulated Hunts in lieu of the current system of advisory regional subscription rates which were adopted last season. Prior to last season these rates were mandatory regional rates which were historically based on a requirement for horses needing a Hunter Certificate to appear in the hunting field on a minimum of four occasions during the season. Both systems involving regional rates were widely abused.

In short the survey found in favour of the proposal for the central collection of this fee by a two to one majority. However, the headline figures mask some very complicated issues. In the survey Hunts and their point-to-point organisers raised a significant number of issues, many not solely connected with central collection of fees. Some Masters, Chairmen and Point-to-Point Secretaries will already be familiar with many of these points, but it is clear that some are not and have requested guidance. Hopefully this paper will try to deal with the main issues that have arisen, but first it is important to understand the whole background to the governance of the sport.

PURPOSE AND PROVISION OF THE SPORT

The purposes of point-to-pointing are agreed and defined as follows, in the Memorandum referred to below:

  • To produce vibrant and properly regulated amateur horse racing.
  • To raise funds for hunting.
  • To entertain farmers, landowners and others within a Hunt country.
  • To supplement those engaged in hunting with a racing calendar, properly regulated in accordance with BHA principles.

It is recognised that members of the Hunts (from the Hunting Associations) organise and take on the financial risk of running the majority of meetings and generally provide the unpaid manpower to run them. The PPSA undertakes the central administration and development of the sport. The PPORA provides the majority of participating horses through the owners & riders, who are its membership.

ROLE OF THE MFHA

The MFHA Point-to-Point Committee

Some Hunts were not aware that the MFHA has a Committee dedicated to point-to-pointing alone which has an in depth knowledge of the sport, but which is entirely separate to the main MFHA Committee. This Committee meets at least twice a year, and more regularly when necessary.

The current membership of the MFHA Point-to-Point Committee is as follows:

Benjamin Mancroft (Chairman)
Nick Bannister (AMHB)
Charlie Barlow (North West)
Louise Bates (Midlands)
Louise Daly (Welsh Border Counties)
Grania Furness (Yorkshire)
Paul Hancock (Devon and Cornwall)
Andrew Hawkins (Masters of Deerhounds Association)
Alan Hill (South Midlands, Sandhurst and MFHA rep on PPA)
Bill Kear (Masters of Draghounds and Bloodhounds Association)
Ian McKie (Northern)
Simon Marriage (East Anglia)
Peter Thomas (West Wales, South Wales and Monmouthshire)
Jason Warner (West Midlands)
Joe Cowen (Retired MFHA Treasurer)
Jessica Leigh-Pemberton (MFHA Treasurer)
Clare Hazell (Executive PPA)
TBA (Wessex)
Tim Easby (MFHA Director and Secretary to the Point-to-Point Committee)

It will be noted that Messrs. Bannister, Hawkins and Kear represent Hunting Associations other than the MFHA. This is because their Associations, the AMHB (Harriers section), MDHA and MDBA have voluntarily signed a Memorandum of Representation (MOR) with the MFHA. Under this MOR the MFHA is recognised as the lead Association amongst Hunting Associations for the sport of point-to-pointing (with its own appointed seat on the Board of the PPA), and each of these other three Associations has a right to a permanent seat on the MFHA Point-to-Point Committee as the decision making body. Each of the member Hunts of these three Hunting Associations are to be treated on the same basis as MFHA recognised Hunts as far as point-to-pointing
is concerned. Hence the Hunting Associations of Britain speak with one united voice as far as point-to-pointing is concerned, through the MFHA Point-to-Point Committee.

Role of the MFHA in Point-to-Point Racing

The MFHA is the regulatory body for registered packs of hounds in Great Britain. Its role in the sport of point-to-pointing is clearly enshrined in the Point-to-Point Authority (PPA) Articles of Association, which are mirrored precisely in the MFHA Rules. These are set out in detail in MFHA Rule B.13 (1 to 6) but can be
summarised as:

  • That only MFHA recognised Hunts and Clubs sanctioned by the MFHA will be authorized to hold race meetings.
  • That any point-to-point race meeting held in his Hunt country must receive prior approval from the Master of the recognised Hunt for that Area.
  • That the MFHA retains authority over the right, or otherwise, to levy charges on Recognised Hunts, or combinations of Hunts, to hold race meetings, additional to charges levied by the PPA.
  • That the MFHA has the sole right to control qualification for horses taking part in point-to-point race meetings, provided such terms remain reasonable.
  • That the MFHA has the sole right to set subscription rates for qualifying horses with recognised Hunts, provided such terms remain reasonable.
  • That the MFHA has the sole right to determine the level of competence of riders in point-to-point race meetings, subject to the disciplinary rights of the BHA.

Under MFHA rules, the Master of the recognised Hunt is responsible for the conduct and running of the point-to-point
meeting of his recognised Hunt, in accordance with BHA Regulations.

ROLE OF OTHER POINT-TO-POINT BODIES

The Point-to-Point Authority (PPA)

The PPA is owned by its four promoting member bodies, the Jockey Club, the MFHA, the Point-to-Point Secretaries Association (PPSA) and the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association (PPORA). The PPA is the body responsible for the administration, management, promotion and development (governance and strategy) of point-to-point racing. There are seven Directors on the Board of the PPA, one each appointed by the four organisations set out above, together with three independent Directors.

The PPA delegates some of its management and administrative functions to the PPSA (see below) and works alongside the MFHA in assisting the latter to fulfil its remit, as set out above. The PPA pays an annual fee to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), to whom it delegates the complete regulatory function (including implementation) in respect of point-to-pointing, particularly in respect of horses, riders, owners, trainers and race meetings. Hence the PPA and MFHA both agree to run point-to-pointing in accordance with the ‘Regulations for Point-to-Point Steeplechasing’ issued by the BHA, including any charges imposed by the BHA on Hunts, Owners, Riders or Meetings, under BHA Regulations. Andrew Merriam is shortly to take up the post as independent Board member and new Chairman of the PPA.

The Point-to-Point Secretaries Association (PPSA)

The PPSA brings together the Secretaries of each point-to-point meeting under the direction of an Area Secretary. There is a national Executive Committee comprising representatives from each of the fourteen PPSA Areas, under its current Chairman, Stephen Howlett. The PPSA has a signed Memorandum of Understanding with the MFHA whereby it is noted that historically the PPSA was a sub-committee of the MFHA with a certain level of autonomy, but became an autonomous stand-alone organisation following the Russell Review of the sport in 2006-2007. Its role was recognised as follows:

  • Co-ordinating the calendar of point-to-point race meetings, preferably by agreement, and submitting to the PPA on or before the appropriate date.
  • Advising and assisting individual Hunt and Club Point-to-Point Committees, when asked.
  • To provide a channel of communication to individual point-to-point meetings through a regional Area network.
  • Collating the views of the individual Hunt and Club Point-to-Point committees on the regulations produced by the BHA and any amendments thereto and reporting such views via the PPA.
  • Assisting the PPA as required.
  • In agreement with MFHA, raising funds to cover central PPSA administration either on an Area basis or from individual point-to-point meetings.
  • Dealing with any matter referred to the Association by the BHA, PPA, or any other authority or body.
  • Assisting with the management of point-to-pointing generally on a day-to-day basis, consistent with the regulations laid down by the BHA.

The Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association (PPORA)

The PPORA was formed in 1977, initially as an Owners Association, until, under Michael Bannister’s guidance, jockeys were also included. It is an effective organisation which promotes the sport generally, and is dedicated to promote the interests both of the owners of the horses taking part and of the riders who are involved with the sport. Its current Chairman is Robert Killen.

Pony Racing

More recently the provision of pony racing, promoted by the Pony Racing Authority (PRA), has taken place at a number of meetings. This encourages the involvement particularly of young riders under the age of 16 in the sport. Pony racing, which mostly takes place at point-to-point meetings, is a growing sport in itself, especially in certain parts of the country, and has its own set of Rules and standards which are written and monitored by the PRA.

THE QUALIFICATION OF HORSES

Owners of point-to-point horses are very much encouraged to bring their horses out hunting where it is safe and sensible to do so. Some Hunts have restricted their Members’ Race to horses that have been properly qualified out hunting with their Hunt. The qualifying of horses in the hunting field will remain not compulsory.

HUNTS AND OWNERS FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS

Owners of horses currently pay an annual sum of about £100 per Hunter Certificate granted, which is the contribution by owners towards the annual PPA operating costs, and the BHA costs of regulation. It also covers a small donation to the BHA’s charity “Retraining of Racehorses” (ROR). It is paid when the owner lodges each Hunter Certificate at Weatherbys, prior to entering a horse in its first race.

Owners have also up to now been asked to pay a subscription to the Hunt which signs their Hunter Certificate – traditionally linked to the four days in the hunting field previously required, but, now ceased. The Area based figure, recommended by the MFHA, has varied between £160 and £390 per horse, but many Hunts have made their own arrangements with individual owners, and hence the variation has been huge, often dependent on local factors – hence why there is currently a proposal to exchange this for a standard national fee, fair to all equally.

Hunts pay an annual point-to-point levy to the MFHA, based on the number of Hunter Certificates they have issued the previous season. This money is passed on by the MFHA to the PPA as its contribution towards the operating costs of the PPA.

Some course owners, particularly those involved in the sport, allow meetings to take place on their land at no cost to the Hunt, whereas in the majority of cases there is often a charge for ‘renting’ the course.

Hunts that run point-to-points take on the financial risk for running the meeting. How they organise the event is down to the individual Hunt, but the racing itself is run under the auspices of the BHA and PPA. Point-to-point races no longer run across ploughed fields and stubble and it is now a more professional sport with high safety standards, which have to be complied with to be able to run a meeting. For instance Hunts have to ensure that the course is in good order and the going up to a standard acceptable to the BHA, that the fences are constructed to BHA standards and any area that a horse will be during the day is fully compliant with their Health and Safety requirements, even down to having approved fencing materials for the paddock and running rails. Hunts
also need to ensure that they have the stipulated number of vets, doctors and paramedics in attendance during the meeting all of whom have to have specified qualifications, as laid down by the BHA, within their respective field. Each meeting requires an outlay of some thousands of pounds each year to be able to comply with standards laid down.

KEY SURVEY FINDINGS

For those in support of a standard fee for all and central collection, the main reason given was that the system would be fair to all, and not give a financial advantage to particular types or places of ownership of horses.

For those in support of retaining the status quo, the main driving force was one of affordability and particularly perceived affordability in some areas of the country.

Many of those in support of change were prepared to accept a significant reduction in the monies that their Hunt is currently receiving per horse, in order to make the scheme acceptable to the membership as a whole.

Some were uneasy about the lack of discount for more than one horse in the same ownership, which could tempt some owners to reduce the number of horses they own. If a different rate is charged, Weatherbys would then be offering a service, rather than acting as a collection point, and hence would have to charge VAT, which would make central collection financially unviable.

In addition, a number of people requested that the MFHA Point-to-Point Committee reconsider the arrangements for those Hunts which do not run point-to-point meetings, yet continue to issue Hunter Certificates. Such Hunts are currently limited to issuing 10 Hunter Certificates per year, and it has been suggested this number should be further restricted and the operation of the arrangement better policed. The matter will be considered by the Committee in due course.

POINT TO POINT SUBSCRIPTIONS FOR SEASON 2017-2018

There will be no change in the current arrangements for point-to-point subscriptions for the coming season. Hunts are particularly asked not to undercut neighbours, nor to poach horses from outside their own Hunt country.

POINT TO POINT SUBSCRIPTIONS FOR SEASON 2018-2019

In the 2018-2019 season, there will be a standard national fee of £160 for each Hunter Certificate registered.

This fee will remain fixed for three years, until the 2021-2022 season.

This fee will be paid by owners at the same time and in addition to the administration fee payable to the PPA/BHA (currently about £100) when the Certificate is lodged. Hence the total amount payable per Certificate will amount to about £260.

This fee will be collected centrally by Weatherbys and the whole of the Hunt section of the total fee (£160 per Certificate) will shortly thereafter be returned to the Hunt named on the Certificate, without any deduction.

This arrangement will enable Hunts to realise a standard return from owners, which should help them with cash flow to put on point-to-point meetings.

This arrangement will hopefully remove the need or wish of some owners to seek a better deal outside their own country.

This monetary contribution will be a fee to be able to run a horse in point-to-points, and is not the same as the current Hunt point-to-point subscription.

Some Hunts, particularly those in the less affluent areas of the country, may allow those who pay the Hunter Certificate fee to hunt for as many days as they see fit. Other packs may ask for a Hunt subscription (or part thereof), on top of the fee for those wishing to hunt. This will be up to individual Hunt Committees. The MFHA Point-to-Point Committee was very clear that what suits a pack in central England may well not suit those at the extremities of the country.

CONCLUSION

The arrangements for Hunt point-to-point subscriptions and the granting of Hunter Certificates will remain unaltered in respect of the coming 2017-2018 season.

A system of central collection through Weatherbys of a standard fee of £160 per horse will be implemented for the granting of a Hunter Certificate in season 2018-2019, and this will remain fixed for three years. It will be paid by owners when the Hunter Certificate (having been signed by a Master or authorised signatory from the Hunt) is lodged together with and in addition to the PPA administration fee of about £100 per horse. The named Hunt will receive back shortly afterwards the whole £160
standard fee without deduction.

Tim Easby
Director
(For the Point-to-Point Committee)

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