Author: Duane Fonseca
Chief executive of The Jockey Club (TJC), Nevin Truesdale can perhaps deal with anything thrown at him now having successfully guided one of Britain’s most famous institutions through what was easily the most trying period in its existence. The Jockey Club has seen a lot since its establishment 272 years ago in 1750, but the Covid-19 pandemic really put it through one of its toughest patches.
That the last two years have been challenging for businesses the world over is an understatement. Truesdale agrees. After all, he was thrown right into the eye of the storm when asked to step in as acting CEO following the sudden departure of Delia Bushell. “In the UK we went quite hard, quite quickly with the lockdown,” Truesdale told Al Adiyat during a recent appearance at Jebel Ali Racecourse.
“There was no league sport played at all for basically three months in England. Racing was off the week after Cheltenham in March and there was nothing through April and May. We started in June and were basically the first sport back… even before the Premier League!” When the lockdown was imposed, Truesdale was responsible for all aspects of the TJC’s financial and commercial planning as group chief financial officer.
It’s a role he had stepped into in August 2013. In late August 2020, he was asked to step in as acting CEO in place of Bushell. In December, the move was made permanent. Speaking of the situation in which he spent his early time as CEO, Truesdale said: “There weren’t any crowds and betting shops and that was a big source of revenue which was cut off.
“No crowds, no hospitality, limited sponsorship, so the only real revenue we were getting was from online streaming and obviously from the Horserace Betting Levy Board who were very generous in helping us to get it on and make it vaguely viable. That was the case basically for the first three months.
All through we were racing behind closed doors for nearly a year.” With time passing, it’s gotten better as Truesdale admits. “We didn’t resume with full crowds until July last year and since then the numbers have been quite good with people wanting to get back. Our crowds are about 7% up on their 2019 equivalent,” he said. “We’ve seen big ticket sales for the Derby in June and the big jumps festivals that are coming up so actually overall the picture is beginning to improve, but it was a very, very challenging time for the whole industry and not just racecourses.”
Truesdale’s trip to the UAE was to further bolster the already strong relations between the two jurisdictions. “As we look towards the future, the importance of the UAE and the region as a whole in UK racing and sales etc will only increase, if you look at the breeding lines and the next generation of UAE owners,” he said. “The legacy being built on is very important, and our job is to ensure those links between us become more solid with time.
“Racing can even help strengthen the political relationships between countries as well, and the UK is very invested in sustaining a positive relationship with the Middle East, as this region supports our racing in many different ways, and the UAE being the main player in the region is very clear. “British trainers and horses are coming to UAE, Bahrain, and KSA continuously and that is a testament to the various attractive factors such as strong races and large prize money.”