As Racing Victoria enters its sixth month without a permanent chairman, it can be confirmed that acting chairman Mike Hirst’s directorship on the RV board has been extended.

Hirst stepped into the temporary role when Brian Kruger left the chairmanship and the board on June 30, and Victorian racing’s governing body has been without a permanent replacement throughout the entirety of the recent spring carnival.

Applications for the director position left open by Kruger’s departure closed last Sunday, well over six months since Kruger confirmed on May 18 he would be leaving.

However, Hirst’s directorship was extended by Victorian Racing Minister Anthony Carbines on October 31, in the middle of the spring carnival, stretching his term on the board beyond eight years. The extension appears to have been made without any public announcement at the time from either Racing Victoria or the state government.   

Deputy chairman since 2016, Hirst is the second longest serving member of the RV board, behind only Greg Nichols, who joined in 2012.

But just when a permanent replacement for Kruger will be announced is not yet known, with the Minister now considering the candidates who applied for the vacant role. 

Former AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan had been touted as a possibility for the vacancy but it is understood he was not among the applicants. 

The uncertainty surrounding the board comes during a time where Racing Victoria’s executive, headed by chief executive Andrew Jones, has drawn scrutiny from within the industry.

There were rumblings of discontent, and even suggestions of a challenge to the board after Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Association chairman Jonathan Munz publicly lambasted mooted innovations by Racing Victoria’s executive and accused them of ignoring the needs of participants.

A bloc involving at least two clubs, owners, breeders and bookmakers moved to call an extraordinary general meeting in October, with a view to changes at board and executive level but Carbines convinced all parties to put their grievances on hold until after the spring carnival.

A well-placed source told The Straight that while there was widespread support for change at executive level, there was reluctance from some groups to move against the board directors.

“If the resolution had only targeted Jones and his leadership team it would have had the backing of pretty much everyone.” the source said. 

Racing Victoria’s seemingly long period without a chairman comes at the same time as there has been a protracted political fight in New South Wales over the re-appointment of Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding.

Racing NSW wanted to extend Balding’s term on the board from 12 to 14 years; but required state government approval. However, that fell at the final hurdle after a dramatic backflip by the NSW government.

The chairman announcement is not the only significant decision that Racing Victoria is waiting on Racing Minister Carbines to resolve.

The joint-venture agreement with Tabcorp is set to end in August next year, and less than nine months away, there has been no announcement from the government as to who may win the state’s new wagering licence.

The joint venture with Tabcorp delivered $128 million in revenue to Racing Victoria in the 2022-23 financial year and while that was a 5.1 per cent decline on the previous year, that source of funding, equivalent to 36 per cent of RV’s wagering revenue, is not guaranteed past August.  

The Victorian racing industry did win a much better deal on its share of Point of Consumption Tax, which will rise to 15 per cent in Victoria from July 1, 2024, but that will not make-up the difference required.

Whether the Victorian racing industry will be adversely affected by the new licensing agreement, or indeed who the future holder or holders of that licence will be, will not be known until the state government advises.