RACING ORGANISATION IN FRANCE
by Dominique de Bellaigue
Specialists consider that there are 4 specific trotting breeds in the world.
Our Scandinavian friends from Finland, Norway or Sweden have the marvellous "cold blood" horses.
As early as the end of the 18th century, Count Orlov gave his name to a small white, grey or bay horse with Arab influence which was to contribute to the improvement of the incipient French breed at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century. The most famous one was KOZYR, imported in 1879.
Across the Atlantic, at the same period, the American standardbred breed - most frequently bay - was founded on its miler's quality. The French will take advantage of its speed traits thanks to imports from Russia.
So, the French will discover the joys of Trotting 40 years after the New World. The first Trotting race took place in 1836 on Cherbourg beach, it had been organised by an Officer from the Haras Nationaux, Ephrem HOUEL. The Haras Nationaux Administration (National Stud Farms) is a true French State organisation founded by Louis XIV for the conservation and improvement of horse breeds in our country.
The main characteristic of the French racing organisation that differentiates it from other racing organisational patterns in the world is that it is a private-but non profit making organisation, under the joint authoritiy of three government Ministries : Agriculture, Finance and "Intérieur" (= Home Office).
A Morality Act passed on June 2nd 1881 granted the right to operate Tote Betting to those racing Associations staging races with a view to improve horse breeds in France. Another Act adopted in 1930 authorised those racing Associations to take and manage off-track betting, our PMU.
There are some 260 racecourses in France, the location of nearly 50% of all European racetracks. Each Société de Courses (= Racing Association) is led by a Chairman and a Committee who are in charge of managing all relevant infrastructures with incomes provided by racecourse attendance and on-course betting.
In general, these racetracks host the three categories of races : Trotting, Flat-racing and Obstacle. However some racing associations deal with one race category only.
Racing Associations are linked together by a Regional Federation which is led by an elected Committee, headed by a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman. If the former comes from the Trotting world, then the latter has to be a flat-racing person. There are 9 regions in total in France.
Concerning the regional organisation, elections take place every four years for professionals, in their given profession, in Trotting on the one hand and in flat racing on the other.
There is a common bridge linking together these two different racing categories, the Federation Nationale des Courses Françaises (National Federation of French Racing) which is alternately chaired every year by the Chairman of each of the two parent organisations.
This presentation will concern Trotting only. The membership of Regional Committees is as follows : 21 members among whom 7 are owners, 7 are breeders, 4 are owner-trainers, 2 are trainers and 1 is a jockey. Each professional category votes to elect its representatives.
The Chairman of each Regional Committee is ex officio a member of the Committee of the Société d'Encouragement à l'Elevage du Cheval Français, the parent organisation for Trotting which directly operates Paris-Vincennes, Enghien, Caen and Cabourg racecourses
Six members of the Regional Committee together with six representatives from Trotting associations in the regions form the Conseil Régional du Trot (Regional Council for Trotting). There is of course a similar organisation for flat-racing.. The 12 members together elect the Chairman of the Regional Council who is chosen among the members of Trotting Racing Associations. That Chairman is ex officio a member of the Comitte of the Société du Cheval Français.
The Regional Committe is entrusted with receiving and transmitting queries and questions from the racing professionals in the region and also gives its opinion on licence granting.
The Regional Council gives its opinion on prize-money amounts and on applications for investment subsidies presented by Racing Associations to the Common Fund for Breeding and Racing.
The Fund is administered by representatives from parent racing associations of the two racing categories, by representatives from the Provinces' racing associations, Ministries for Agriculture and Finance. Its Chairman is a Senior civil servant from the Cour des Comptes (French National Audit Office). The Fund decides on national investment policies. It is financed by a levy on bets.
As we have seen, the members of the Committee of the parent Racing Association for Trotting are the 9 Chairmen of regional Councils who represent Racing Associations, the 9 Chairmen of regional Committees who represent professionals (18 people). Other 16 members are also elected every 4 years at national level by racing-professionals : 5 persons representing breeders elected among breeders, 5 persons representing owners elected amongowners, 3 representing breeder-owners, 2 representing trainers and 1 representing jockeys. The members of the Société's Committee, then, are these 34 individuals + 16 co-opted ones, i.e. a total of 50 members.
These 50 persons serve on the Committee on a voluntary basis. They elect (4-year mandate) : 1 Chairman, 3 Vice-Chairmen and 8 members who form a 12 member administrative Board, all non-paid. To help these members in their task, the Société has 3 different Directorates : the Technical Direction, the Financial Direction and the Communication Direction which employ a total of 90 wage-earning individuals.
The Committee members work in Commissions which are entrusted with tabling proposals to the Board :
- Provinces Commission : for all that concerns race organisation in the Provinces
- Breeding Commission : for all breeding
regulations concerning the French Trotter
("Trotteur Français"), a breed with an international status
- Commission for the Racing calendar and Rules of racing :
: decisions concerning the whole country, to be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Rules of Racing : approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, to be enforced on all trotting racecourses.
- Finance Commission
- Works Commision
- Commission for External relations and Promotion
Both parent organisations (Trotting and Flat racing) are the only ones authorised to organise betting nationally, each in its own racing category. A parent racing association may entrust a Province racing association with organising races but the main part of the income thus incurred must get back to the parent racing organisation (Trotting or Flat racing) which provides for all prize money on all racecourses of the racing category concerned. All programmes are drawn up under its authority and approved by the Ministry of Agriculture.
For Trotting and Flat racing together, the off-course betting turnover (PMU) amounts to FFr 36 billion, among which 6.1 billion go back to the State and a little more than 25 billion are distributed among winning punters. Out of the 4.9 billion left, a little more that 2.7 billion represent PMU's costs. 2.2. billion are left for parent racing associations, i.e. some 1.1 billion for Trotting which hands out nearly FFr 950 million as prize money.
We can see that such an organisation provides a lot of money to the State which receives the money from urban places where the turnover is created in order to redistribute it in rural places where horses live.
This activity represent 53,000 jobs, which means that it provides a living for 130,000 individuals.
Race prize-money in France is totally financed by the betting operation. Racing professionals can live on it, with contributions (minor ones, we must acknowledge) from rich owners. There are about 3,500 breeders, 4,400 owners, 1,300 trainers and 2,200 jockeys.
The total number of broodmares is 17,000 ; there are 650 stallions, 11,000 foalings for only 3,800 horses qualified per generation. Ten thousand races are staged each year for an average total prize money of FFr 88,000 per race.
A contract signed with the Ministry of Finance stipulates that total prize-money must follow the PMU's turnover trend, unless a specific waiver is granted to the parent organisation which has applied for it.
The Ministry of Agriculture has to approve racing programmes, racing calendars as welle as new gaming opportunities.
The Ministère de l'Intérieur (Home Office) has to give a favourable opinion on the attribution of racing colours to owners by the parent racing association, as well as on authorisations to train and/ or race.
The Pari Mutuel Urbain is an Economic Interest Grouping owned by Racing Associations which are the only ones authorised to organise betting on horseraces (Act of June 2nd 1891).
The members of the General Assembly of the Pari Mutuel Urbain serve as racing Associations which operate off-course betting. The PMU's Board has ten members :
- 1 Chairman chosen by the Racing
- 1 General Manager appointed by the Ministry of Finance
- 2 representatives from the Flat racing parent Association
- 2 representatives from the Trotting parent Association
- 2 representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture
- 2 representatives from the Ministry of Finance.
The PMU employs 1,700 persons and has 8,000 sales points in France.
Racing Associations and the PMU have launched a TV channel broadcast on the two satellite operators in France (Canal Satellite and TPS) and on cable TV. This channel is the only TV channel dedicated to horses and is called EQUIDIA. It is the channel with the longest live broadcast. As of March 2000, it will be possible for French TV viewers to bet from home "live" through their remote control box. Furthermore, studies have been undertaken with a view to launch Internet betting on French races.