The long-awaited Napier Report, a five-year plan for Transvaal racing, was requested by Provincial authorities which will make some R70-million available to racing in the Transvaal through the Transvaal Development Fund over the next five years.

Main recommendations are:

  • The establishment of the Highveld Racing Authority (HRA), a united corporate type top management structure to manage matters of common interest to racing in the Transvaal.
  • Development of two new training centres; upgrade training facilities at the Vaal and complete those at Turffontein.
  • Setting of realistic stakes.
  • Maintain and strengthen the credibility and control of racing in the Transvaal.
  • Rationalisation of on-course and off-course totalisators under one management.
  • Incorporation of Free State racing into Transvaal racing, under the control of the HRA.

In the ensuing months a lot was written relating to the report.

Here’s a timeline of events.

The SA Racehorse - May 1986

Extract from Editorial - Fair Comment

We hear that the recommendations of the Napier Committee - which was set up to prepare a five-year plan for Transvaal racing - are about to be released.  From all accounts much has been achieved and the Committee is being hailed as one of the most significant happenings in the Province's racing history.  It is generally understood that the most fundamental move supported by the Commission is for the formation of a body to implement the five year plan as well as fulfilling a major role in the administration of Transvaal racing.  We presume its major sphere of activity would be in controlling the proposed Highveld training centres, but there are rumours that the new body could have far wider powers which just might cut across the jealously guarded domain of many organisations who regard themselves as enshrined.

To have any teeth at all, the new body will have to comprise delegates from the Jockey Club, the racing clubs, Owners and Trainers Association and the Thoroughbred Breeders Association.  And they will have to be delegates who have a total mandate from their boards to make binding decisions - something that's certainly never been done before.

All well and good, but what concerns us is that, historically, the elements that make up racing have rarely been able to reach consensus - even the racing clubs find it hard to agree on the most trivial matters. At risk of appearing negative, we wonder what miraculous ingredient this new body will have that will transcend the industry's apparent death-wish never to agree on anything?  Examples of this disunity are legion, but the case of three racing centres using three different computerised betting systems is, we always think, one of the best.

There is very little doubt that this new body backed by the truly vast sums being generated by the Transvaal Horse Racing Development Fund could be the force to take Transvaal racing into a new era. Certainly the financial muscle of the Province has no equal - as evidenced by Transvaal turnovers of over R3,5 million on mid-week meetings.  The target for Transvaal racing must obviously be to have the best horses, the best trainers, the best training facilities, the highest stakes as well as the best amenities for racegoers.  With the money that appears available there should be little to prevent achieving those goals.

The members of this new body will have a huge responsibility, and we can only hope that they will have the best interests of racing at heart.


SA Racehorse - October 1986 Extract

Napier Report - by Robert Garner

The long-awaited Napier Report, a five-year plan for Transvaal racing, has finally been released. The report was requested by province, which will make some R70-million available to racing in the Transvaal through the Transvaal Development Fund over the next five years. The report is now the subject of former Turffontein general manager Sandy Christie's one-man commission of inquiry into Transvaal horse-racing. Fortunately, former MEC for Transvaal racing John Griffiths had the foresight to appoint Christie to investigate recommendations in the report, several of which appear to be flawed.

The proposed HRA is rightly causing a deal of concern among some racing officials and stewards. As conceived, the HRA has the makings of a dictatorship that will grow to control every facet of Highveld racing, including even perhaps the functions of the Jockey Club in the Transvaal and Free State. As such it will wield excessive power and the racing clubs' autonomy will disappear except in the most trivial instances.

Given even the most efficient management structure, the HRA must grow into a cumbersome and unwieldy organisation by virtue of the vast amount of matters it will be responsible for. Add to that the fact that it will be a dictatorial body operating in a non-competitive environment and it could be as inefficient as any state-controlled monopoly within a few years.

It must be hoped that sanity will prevail and the HRA's functions cut to a minimum, lest the proposed organisation prove the lid of the coffin containing Transvaal racing.


SA Racehorse - December 1986

Letters to the Editor from Ronnie Napier

Robert Garner's article in he October issue elicited the following response from Ronald Napier, Chairman of the Napier Committee, Deputy Chairman of the Jockey Club and Joint Deputy Chairman of Turffontein.  The formation of the Highveld Racing Authority was mooted in the Napier Committee's five-year-plan for Transvaal racing.

In the October issue of the South African Racehorse, Mr Robert Garner, the racing editor of The Star, had various comments to make about the proposed establishment of the Highveld Racing Authority.  The comments made by Mr Garner are extremely critical and destructive of the proposals made by the Committee which I chaired and which are now being considered by the racing clubs.  Since Mr Garner's comments have very little basis in fact, I felt that all racing people would appreciate some comments from me as to what is proposed in regard to the HRA and what sort of body it is likely to be.

The reasons for establishing the HRA were as follows:

  1.  For many years in the Transvaal those matters affecting racing as a whole in the Province as compared to those matters which were purely club affairs, have been handled by the Witswatersrand Association of Race Clubs ("the WARC").  The WARC however suffered from a major disability, in that it had no constitution and was regarded merely as a debating forum by its constituent members.  If at any time a decision was taken by the WARC which an individual race club did not like, it merely stood back from the decision and as a result the WARC was seen as a body that had no power and was regarded as being ineffective.  In addition the clubs racing at the Vaal were not members of the WARC and it has been felt for some time that this makes no sense, since the Vaal racing is clearly an integral part of racing on the Highveld.
  2. In regard to approaches to the Development Fund, the Transvaal Province have made it clear that they can no longer accept piecemeal approaches for money from clubs and other bodies.  In their view such approaches must come from a body which is able to co-ordinate and analyse such approaches beforehand.  In our opinion this obviously makes sense as the funds in the Development Fund are not unlimited and there must be a proper appreciation from the racing industry as to where our priorities lie.
  3. It has been clear to racing administrators for many years that there are a number of matters of common interest in racing over and above the matters handled by the WARC which need to be dealt with by the industry as a whole, and the only way to do this would be to set up a body which would have the power to make decisions for the whole industry.  In other words, there is an urgent need for a body with decision making powers which would really represent the views of the industry as a whole and which would discuss and decide matters that affected the industry as such as opposed to the individual race clubs.
  4. If the Transvaal is to progress as a racing centre and to attract the best horses from other Provinces for our major racing seasons it is obvious that we need to develop new training centres and since no individual club has the money to do this, it was obvious that the money would have to be forthcoming from the Development Fund.  If that happens then such training centres would have to be run by the industry as a whole and not by any individual race club or clubs.

These reasons seemed to the Committee to be sufficiently compelling and important to persuade us to recommend the establishment of a new body with power to make decisions and therefore a firm recommendation was made to the Province and to all the race clubs in the Transvaal that the HRA should be set up as soon as possible.  However, it was appreciated that the race clubs in the Transvaal must not feel that their authority was being removed in any way and the draft constitution of the HRA therefore expressly provides that "the company shall be expressly excluded from taking over the management and operation of any race club and it shall not be the business of the HRA to be interested in the running of any race club or the conduct of any race meeting." It has been said by Mr Garner and others that the HRA will wield excessive power and the racing clubs' autonomy will disappear except in the most trivial instances and this criticism would seem to be ill-founded in view of the above provisions.

The proposed Memorandum and Articles of the HRA provide that each member (and it is envisaged that each race club operating in the Transvaal, and at the Vaal, will be members) shall be entitled to appoint one director as its representative on the HRA.  If we assume that all the race clubs operating at present qualify as members then there will be a total of eight directors from the race clubs.  IN addition there shall be one director appointed by the Administrator of the Transvaal and one director appointed by the Jockey Club.  In addition, a further four non-executive officers are entitled to be nominated as the representatives of:

  1. The owners and colour holders in the Transvaal;
  2. The licensed trainers;
  3. The Jockeys' Association; and
  4. The Transvaal Breeders Club.

Such a structure seems to all of us to be an extremely democratic and representative one and we are certainly not aware of any racing body in the Transvaal ever having had such a representative board before.  Certainly the existing Board of the WARC does not represent all the various interests in racing so comprehensively.  In our opinion therefore the charge that the HRA "has the makings of a dictatorship" is totally unwarranted and is in fact laughable, in view of the proposals spelt out above which seek to get all interested parties involved in the decision making process regarding racing in the Province.

The proposed principal objects of the RA are as follows:

  1. To acquire, own, develop and improve property in the Transvaal and at the Vaal for the training of race horses;
  2. To co-ordinate and rationalise horse racing programmes and the improvement and upgrading of the standard of horse racing in the Transvaal and at the Vaal;
  3. To rationalise and improve on and off course tote betting facilities and the promotion of co-operation and liaison between the HRA, the race clubs and the Totalisator Agency Board;
  4. To develop and promote all aspects of horse racing including the taking of all steps necessary to improve the image of horse racing with the general public;
  5. To acquire, lease and develop facilities relating to closed circuit television;
  6. To improve security at race clubs and training facilities;
  7. To assume those functions of the WARC which it is appropriate for the HRA to take over.

The recommendations are that there would be a clear division between those functions which properly fall within the authority of the race clubs and those functions which fall within the wider interest of racing as a whole in the Transvaal.  It is envisaged that the HRA would assume responsibility for all those matters which are common to the wider interests of racing and that the clubs would retain within their ambit all other matters and in any event they could continue to run the race clubs as before.  However, it should be borne in mind that the eight representatives of the clubs on the HRA would of course control that body.  Nowhere in these proposals can we see the possibility that the HRA would be "a dictatorial body operating in a non-competitive environment" and in fact all of us associated with the recommendation area satisfied that the only way to get sanity and a co-ordinated approach to racing in the Transvaal is for the HRA to be set up as soon as possible.

We are all of us conscious that to set up a bureaucratic structure would be a mistake and therefore it is envisaged that although the HRA will take over most of the existing WARC functions, a fairly simple management structure would be put in place.  It will obviously be up to the first Board of the HRA to decide who its Chief Executive shall be and who its Chief Executive shall be and how the HRA will be run.  Without prescribing to the HRA in any way, I am sure it will be their sincere wish to ensure that the HRA does not become inefficient or unwieldy.  Since no one has levelled this charge against the WARC at present, I can see no reason to conclude, as Mr Garner has, that the HRA "must grow into a cumbersome and unwieldy organisation by virtue of the vast amount of matters it will be responsible for".

We are at present negotiating with the various race clubs to finalise the Memorandum and Articles of the HRA and to sort out the final details regarding the composition of the Board and a large measure of approval has already been achieved with the race clubs and it is anticipated that the HRA will be registered and operating before the end of the year.  All persons to whom I have spoken are enthusiastic that formation of such a body will be a big step forward for Transvaal racing and in fact the establishment of such a body is long overdue for racing in the Transvaal and at the Vaal.

In these circumstances we would hope that all persons involved in racing on the Highveld would in fact support the establishment of a body such as the HRA and in any event give it a chance to show what I can do before seeking to destroy it with destructive criticism.

R Napier


Robert Garner's reply

The background to the proposed HRA warrants mention.  The HRA was one of the recommendations contained in the Napier Report, a five year plan for horse racing on the Highveld requested by the Transvaal Provincial Authorities.

Similar projects in other countries have taken years, yet the Napier Report was completed within months. That insufficient thought and debate was given to the HRA and other matters is evident by the amount of opposition that the recommendation has encountered from the racing clubs.

The HRA constitution, as stated in Mr Napier's letter, differs greatly from the concept laid out in the Napier Report and the Saturday clubs have requested some changes to the Memorandum and Articles of the HRA as proposed by certain members of the Napier Committee.  As things stand the HRA will not see the light of day owing to apparently irreconcilable differences between the Saturday and midweek Clubs over voting representation on the Executive Board.

Three points in Mr Napier's lengthy letter necessitate a reply.

The HRA does have the makings of a dictatorship.  Technically, each group will be represented, but decisions will be by majority vote and will be binding.  In practice, representatives will tend to become divorced from the group they represent and vote according to their views and those of their fellow executive members often against the wishes of those they represent.

To Mr Napier's charge that the criticism that the HRA will wield excessive power is ?ill founded', I say balderdash.  The HRA will be responsible for nearly every aspect of racing on the Highveld including, according to the Napier Report, ensuring that the Jockey Club polices racing satisfactorily.

In attempting to defend my charge that the "HRA must grow into a cumbersome and unwieldy organisation, Mr Napier compared the HRA with the WARC.

They have nothing in common.  The WARC has limited power, its decisions are not binding on its eight member clubs (for Mr Napier's information, the Vaal Clubs are represented) and the organisation is responsible for half the matters that would be entrusted to the HRA.

Whatever concealing words are used, the HRA as planned would be a breeding ground for fat and lazy bureaucracy.


SA Racehorse - December 1986 Extract

Highveld Racing Authority by Robert Garner

The Highveld Racing Authority proposed in the Napier Report, a five-year plan for Transvaal horseracing, seems doomed to failure. The report recommended the formation of a body (the HRA) that would be responsible for every facet of Transvaal horseracing, including even keeping a watchful eye on the Jockey Club's control of the sport in the province.

The proposed body has been strongly criticised on the grounds that it would do away with the autonomy of the racing clubs, stifle competition among the clubs and grow into a bureaucratic monster. The deathknell for the proposed body is, however, likely to result from disagreement among the clubs over representation on the HRA. Midweek clubs under the control of the Owners' and Trainers' Association are adamant that owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders should be represented on the HRA.

The Saturday clubs, however, are totally opposed to representation from these groups on the grounds that, since the HRA will have control over many matters pertaining to the clubs, only racing clubs should have executive representation.

The rift appears insurmountable at this stage and the solution might lie in reconstituting the existing Witwatersrand Association of Racing Clubs (WARC) and forming separate companies to control the proposed training centres and rationalised totalisator.

The WARC, recently expanded to allow representation from the clubs racing at the Vaal, has long been responsible for racing policy in the Transvaal.  The body's failure to give direction to Transvaal horseracing has resulted from its decisions not being binding on the clubs, a failing that can easily be rectified if the body is reconstituted.

Forming separate companies to control the training centres and rationalised totalisator would have a dual benefit.  It would lessen the workload of the central body and trainers could be given representation in the company responsible for training centres.  Such a company would also be responsible for matters like racehorse transport and security, where it would be essential to have the opinions of trainers.







  • The Christie Commission


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