This will not be pretty if row goes all the way to a tri­bunal

Rac­ing it­self may suf­fer col­lat­eral dam­age in the af­ter­math of Bushell’s toxic exit from the Jockey Club

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Racing - Rac­ing Cor­re­spon­dent

It would ap­pear likely that no one – not the Jockey Club, Delia Bushell or rac­ing – will emerge un­scathed from the chief ex­ec­u­tive’s high-pro­file de­par­ture af­ter less than a year as the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s first fe­male in charge.

Af­ter Bushell’s ex­plo­sive res­ig­na­tion let­ter on Sun­day, it is not go­ing to be pretty and the Jockey Club might need its cow­boy sad­dle be­cause it looks like it is in for a rodeo ride.

Even though the 270-yearold or­gan­i­sa­tion is con­fi­dent it went through wa­ter­tight due process with re­gard to em­ploy­ment law – hir­ing a spe­cial­ist firm to deal with the dis­pute – and that it has a ro­bust case against Bushell, it would clearly pre­fer this not to end up at a tri­bunal.

It is un­der­stood that Bushell, who has em­phat­i­cally de­nied the club’s al­le­ga­tions, was dis­missed and given five days to agree her exit. But by go­ing pub­lic with her res­ig­na­tion let­ter, it is clear she has cho­sen to fight fire with fire.

To counter her let­ter, the club re­tal­i­ated by also go­ing pub­lic with the in­di­vid­ual charges, which do not make good read­ing.

What is abun­dantly clear is that af­ter less than a year in the job, re­la­tions be­tween Bushell and the Jockey Club mem­bers and her fel­low ex­ec­u­tives were strained be­fore, even­tu­ally, be­com­ing toxic and break­ing down al­to­gether.

The fi­nal straw for many was the ex­tended ne­go­ti­a­tions with

ITV over cov­er­age – but hav­ing come from BT Sport and Sky me­dia, rights are Bushell’s spe­cial­ist area. The deal was even­tu­ally signed last month.

For out­siders, the dis­pute will re­in­force all the stereo­types that the Jockey Club is a bunch of old, misog­y­nist, landed toffs whose “club” is not com­mer­cial and who are out of their depth in the cor­po­rate world. That is out­dated, though. Owner of 15 race­courses, in­clud­ing Cheltenham, Ain­tree, New­mar­ket and Ep­som, un­til Covid came along, the club had an an­nual turnover of £200 mil­lion, dou­ble what it was 10 years ago.

The av­er­age age of its 12-strong ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment team is in the for­ties and many of them have ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing for blue-chip com­pa­nies. These days, women hold posts through­out its struc­ture.

Rac­ing is likely to suf­fer a de­gree of col­lat­eral dam­age. Bushell can be viewed as the re­former brought in to shake things up but who met re­sis­tance. The Bri­tish Horserac­ing Author­ity is about to seek changes from the Gov­ern­ment in the Levy sys­tem but there will be plenty of MPs will­ing to be­lieve that the BHA is just an ex­ten­sion of the Jockey Club.

Where this leaves Sandy Dud­geon, the chief stew­ard, is not clear but one imag­ines it places him on fairly thin ice. Hav­ing ap­pointed Bushell, he was just about her last sup­porter, but if the buck stops with him, it will also fall at his feet if the Jockey Club was to lose an ac­tion against her or be forced into a pay­out.

Bushell has al­ready played one game of chicken with ITV. The ques­tion now is will she play an­other with her old em­ployer?

If it goes to court, the in­sti­tu­tion will have more to lose than its for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive. Rac­ing, mean­while, will watch on to see who blinks first.

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