This is the first of a series of Interviews with people Inside Racing about the impact that the Covid19 pandemic has had on their personal circumstances and the affect it has had personally & within the racing industry.

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Today we start with Sky Sports Racing Presenter Tim Carroll, who talks openly about the current situation, his thoughts about Lockdown, What the BHA can learn from other countries still racing, Cheltenham Festival & behind closed doors racing…..

Firstly, how are you keeping at the moment & How are you keeping busy?

I’m keeping fine thank you. I’m fortunate in that I live in a country lane in a house where there is always something that can be done. I have more decking than the Titanic, needless to say the decking and the house itself are looking pretty good at the moment.

As a punter and someone who enjoys the International scene I’m still having a play and trying to find winners, mostly in Hong Kong and the US, plus the higher end stuff Down Under.

I’m a bit boring in that racing is my life, but I do like to have a bash on the guitar and whilst I’m certainly no Angus Young, I have had far more time for that recently.

What were your first thoughts when Boris announced the Lockdown?

Like many people, I wasn’t sure what it would fully entail or the extent of the impact on all of us, but I was supportive. I’m a ‘bottom line’ person and the bottom line in all of this is you are far better erring on the side of caution, as the consequences of being flippant are potentially catastrophic.

What is your current situation with employment?

My current situation is I have lost all work except the written work I do for At The Races, which is mostly on Hong Kong. All studio work has gone until further notice. Thus I’ve lost the very large majority of my income.

To put a silver lining on a dark cloud, it has meant I have been able to spend far more time doing something I genuinely enjoy, punting. I don’t like to ‘launch’ into something without doing the work prior, so although my strike rate hasn’t improved, I have landed a few ‘bigger’ bets that maybe I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had the time to crunch the numbers. Addeybb at The Championships in Sydney comes to mind, a ridiculously good price given the ground and his 2nd up record.

Has any of the Government employment measures helped you, if required?

I’m set up as a Limited Company, so I fall into the 5% that don’t get any help. Let me preface what I’m about to say by stating I’m ok, there are people far worse off than me and to be straight, I don’t need the help.

But as a matter of principle for the Government to ignore any tax payer when those tax payers are rightfully going to be required to eventually pay this all back is simply wrong.

I think there is a misconception out there that one person Limited Companies are purely set up as a tax dodge. In my case, that’s a load of baloney. I am set up as Limited Company predominately for one reason and one reason only, and that is many organisations finance departments prefer it that way. I wont bore you with detail, but financially I wouldn’t be any worse off set up as a sole trader.

I really do feel sorry for some of my colleagues who are genuinely struggling through all of this with zero support. And some of the comments you see on social media re Limited Companies annoys the hell out of me. Imagine if crap really hit the fan, you wouldn’t want to be in the trenches with some of those clowns.

How has Covid19 affected the TV Racing Industry?

I think the affects are obvious in that with no local racing, and with limited overseas racing which mostly comes in outside of peak viewing times, it means that there simply isn’t a lot happening, which not only means many freelance Presenters out of work, but also Production crews, camera operators etc are also out of work.

The added complication is that these channels have running costs and whilst I’m not sure of the exact details, I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to work out that whilst there is limited live content and viewing numbers are down, that this will have a major effect on revenue.

The small positive from all of this from my perspective is that International racing is receiving far more attention than it normally would, and hopefully this will assist in familiarising local audiences, thus making it a more valued product going forward.

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We see a lot of interviews done via Skype and Zoom, It must be hard to be Socially distant in a TV Studio?

I haven’t been required to do any Skype or Zoom interviews, just call in’s. But to be honest, no I don’t think it’s hard at all. I think most people would prefer to work from home if they could. Whilst I really enjoy working for Sky Sports Racing and consider myself fortunate to do what I do, I can assure you that I’m not missing driving the M1 onto the M25 onto the M4 mostly in peak hours! lol

Racing continues in Hong Kong, Australia & certain states in the USA, with the races late in the evening UK time & Early morning. How do you cope with the early mornings/Late nights?

I have no problems with late nights and early mornings. I’m a night owl by nature and I don’t sleep a lot anyway. Prior Covid I was doing mostly the late Stateside on Sky Sports Racing, which means getting home at 300am, if anything my sleeping habits have improved during isolation. I might actually come out of this healthier than I was when it all started. Silver linings.

What can the BHA learn from the racing in other parts of the world during this time or is it all in the hands of the Government?

I would imagine the BHA would be monitoring what is happening in the countries that are racing and hopefully taking on board what works, and for that matter what doesn’t work. However, the BHA, like any other jurisdiction, will have to adhere to Government advice and instruction. I think each case is different. For example, in Australia and America they are State based and each State will have their own ideas on how to best handle the situation. Plus they are not as confined as we are here and a very high percentage of the horses are already stabled at the track. As difficult as it may be, it’s still a less challenging task to keep the show on the road in those two countries than it is over here.

Ill probably be accused of being bias due to by contractual obligations, but I have plenty of respect for the Hong Kong administration and how the deal with any crisis/issue, not just Covid. They are decisive and have conviction in every thing they do. Completely separate issue, but when the protests were on last year they basically cancelled an entire meeting due to one person. Agree or disagree, that’s strong leadership.

Hong Kong has a huge population that’s living on top of each other and they have far more experience dealing with these type of things than we do. When this all broke some of my friends over there where telling me that their temperatures were automatically being taken when they walked into buildings, even residential. Everyone wears face-masks, including media, jockeys and trainers when doing interviews or television shows. Whilst we may not be able to do what they do as a society, there are certainly lessons to be learnt.

How do you think the BHA handled the Cheltenham Festival Outrage in the Press and how do you think they are doing during the Pandemic?

I’m not about to slam the BHA for Cheltenham. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I think if we could go back in time we would have had Cheltenham behind closed doors. Like most people I wouldn’t know exactly what unfolded during the decision-making process, but I would think that there would have been a plenty of advice taken on board from people considered experts in their fields, not to mention Government guidance.

I think it’s become abundantly clear that there was a lot of confusion at the time as to how best deal with the situation. For example, on the final day of Cheltenham, the UK’s chief scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, told BBC Radio 4 one of the key things we needed to do was to build up herd immunity. I’m not condemning Patrick Vallance, simply highlighting the mixed messages at the time.

I really don’t understand the constant bashing of the BHA during all of this. These are uncharted waters and yes mistakes will have been made, but overall I think Nick Rust, and I haven’t always agreed with Nick (whip debate!), has done a very good job in hugely trying circumstances.

I understand the frustration from some trainers, it must be very difficult to keep horses simply ticking over with nothing to aim at, but what is Nick Rust meant to do in regards to the resumption of racing? My understanding is that contingency plans are in place for when racing is given the go-ahead to resume, but the BHA cant act until the current restraints are removed.

All paid for positions are under scrutiny, especially high profile ones, and rightfully so. But money aside, who the hell would want to be the head of the BHA? You’re just a constant punching bag. I read one of John Berry’s recent blogs and when someone like John states he wouldn’t want to go near the position due to the constant criticism, I think it tells you plenty. For the betterment of the industry, it might be time that there was more of a constructive rather than destructive approach taken between the BHA and participants.

What are your thoughts on racing behind Closed Doors and what precautions/measures do you think need to be implemented before racing can return?

Racing behind closed doors in other countries has worked far better than I think most of us would have thought given the circumstances. It’s not for me to state what measures should be put in place, ill leave that to the experts. However it has worked in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and many parts of America, thus Id like to think that we would be taking on board all the relevant information from those countries.

Racing is under constant scrutiny as it is, once given the go ahead we need to ensure everyone adheres to the guidelines set in place, no matter how strict they may be. Given that it’s a non contact sport, there is the possibility that racing will go ahead before other mainstream sports, and as has been the case in Australia, this presents a golden opportunity to promote our sport to an audience that may not usually pay much attention. If that’s how it pans out, lets now blow it.

We would like to thank Tim for his time and wish him all the best for the future…

STAY SAFE

Interview – Rich Williams
Photo – Tim Carroll(Twitter)

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