Victoria Racing Club holds its Annual General Meeting for season 2020/21

15 December 2021 Written by VRC

The Victoria Racing Club (VRC) has acknowledged the highlights and challenges of a season like no other at the Club’s annual general meeting, held virtually in Melbourne today.

Three incumbent Directors – Michael Ramsden, Sophie Cornell and Neil Werrett – were declared re-elected without ballot during the meeting as their candidacies for the three Board vacancies were unopposed. 

Mr Ramsden joined the VRC board in 2012 and has served as Vice Chairman since 2019. He sits on the Audit and Risk Management Committee and the Master Plan sub-committee, and is Chair of the Racing sub-committee.

Ms Cornell has served on the VRC board since 2015 and is a Director of the Melbourne Cup Foundation.

Mr Werrett was appointed to the VRC Board in April 2018, and is a member of the Racing sub-committee. He also represented the Club on the Thoroughbred Aftercare Welfare Working Group Steering Committee (TAWWG).

VRC Chairman Neil Wilson welcomed the confirmation of the three Directors’ positions on the Board.

“Michael, Sophie and Neil are excellent contributors to the VRC, and I’m delighted that their skills and expertise will continue to be shared around our Board table and across the Club,” Mr Wilson said.

Five special resolutions to amend clauses in the VRC constitution also passed. The changes address current legal requirements, contemporary practice and technology, and matters of governance policy considered by the Board to be in the best interests of the Club and its members, and spanned the following areas:

  • Special Resolution 1 – Legal, administrative and drafting updates,
  • Special Resolution 2 – Number of members required to call a general meeting,
  • Special Resolution 3 – Board composition,
  • Special Resolution 4 – Board eligibility and governance, and
  • Special Resolution 5 – Disciplinary processes

Pandemic influences financial performance

The ongoing effects of the pandemic continued to impact the Club’s finances, with a loss of $14.9 million recorded to 31 July 2021. This was a slight improvement on the underlying loss of $16.5 million for the 2020 financial year, after removing the $22.2 million net gain on disposal of freehold land at 550 Epsom Road recognised during that reporting period.

Mr Wilson said the impact of running race meetings on a closed course had the most significant impact on the finances of the Club.

“Just 12 race meetings proceeded in front of our members and the public during the 2020/21 season, and density restrictions for all 12 meetings meant crowds were limited to 49,000 across the entire season,” Mr Wilson said.

“Most notably, the highlight of the Spring Racing Carnival, the Melbourne Cup Carnival 2020, was held on a closed course for the first time in its 160-year history.

“This saw a significant drop on the previous season’s attendance of over 390,000, with only the final seven race meetings of season 2019/20 from April onwards being conducted without our members and the public on course in the prior year.”

Highlights providing a solid foundation for the season ahead

Whilst the challenges of the past two years are well known, 2021 produced a number of highlights for the VRC, spreading hope and joy amongst racing fans and the broader community and positioning the Club for growth into season 2021/22.

The return of crowds in December last year and into the new year provided a blueprint for the Club in managing the return of crowds in a COVID-safe way, with a crowd of over 11,000 enjoying the peak of our Autumn Spectacular, Super Saturday on 6 March 2021, witnessing Homesman cross the line in an emotional victory in the Group 1 TAB Australian Cup just days after part-owner and music industry legend Michael Gudinski passed away.

As well as looking back at the previous season, the AGM also recognised the highlights of 2021 and the recent Melbourne Cup Carnival, including:

  • The announcement of Penfolds as our new naming rights partner for the most illustrious day on the Australian racing calendar, Penfolds Victoria Derby Day. The partnership builds on a more than 40-year relationship with Treasury Wine Estates.
  • Over 35,000 racing fans returning to Flemington for the first Melbourne Cup Carnival since 2019 under the Government-approved COVID-safe plan, signalling the re-opening of our state.
  • Record engagement for Cup Week 2021, with more than 1.9 million Australians watching Verry Elleegant charge to a historic win in the Lexus Melbourne Cup across Network 10 and 10Play, with audiences across the, Sky and TAB platforms pushing the total audience beyond 2.5 million viewers.
  • Wagering turnover reaching new heights with total domestic wagering turnover of $724.1 million, up 7.6 per cent from last year, and record wagering for Lexus Melbourne Cup Day 2021 with a turnover of $372.8 million, up 1.9 per cent.
  • Almost 60 cents of every dollar wagered for the day was placed on ‘the race that stops a nation’™, which recorded $223.8 million turnover in domestic wagering.
  • Significant steps taken in strengthening safety protocols for our greatest race, the Lexus Melbourne Cup, with enhanced pre-race screening and more stringent requirements on international horses ensuring every horse in every race across our Carnival crossed the line safely.
  • Over $1 million raised for our charity partner Very Special Kids through Pin & Win across our three-year partnership, including $310,000 in 2021.

In closing the meeting, Mr Wilson thanked the VRC Board, management, and entire VRC team for their outstanding contributions during these difficult times, and acknowledged the Club’s passionate and loyal members, who have been steadfast in their support throughout the pandemic.

“The Club is incredibly grateful for the loyalty and support from our members over the past eighteen months,” Mr Wilson said.

“It has been one of the most challenging periods for our Club as well as the broader community, but the messages of encouragement we have received from VRC members have been much appreciated during this time.

“We thank each and every member for their support and we look forward to welcoming all members back on course in 2022.”