Jockey Club must re­veal all ev­i­dence to end Bushell row

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Racing - Char­lie Brooks

Trust is the corner­stone of any sport. It re­quires a be­lief that the sport is straight and a faith that the of­fi­cials who run it are fair. As a young, bel­liger­ent trainer, I lost all con­fi­dence in of­fi­cial­dom when, by my reck­on­ing, they stitched me up and fined me for re­fus­ing to run horses on ground that I con­sid­ered to be un­safe, while se­nior train­ers were seem­ingly ab­solved for the same of­fence.

The in­de­pen­dent ju­di­cial panel, which the Bri­tish Horserac­ing Au­thor­ity has set up now, en­sures that such mis­car­riages of jus­tice no longer oc­cur.

So, it is to be cel­e­brated that the 15 new mem­bers of that panel who were re­vealed re­cently are of the high­est cal­i­bre. These ap­point­ments rep­re­sent the sort of pro­gres­sion which politi­cians in West­min­ster wish to see, if they are to help rac­ing re­ceive a fairer deal from the book­mak­ing in­dus­try.

But that progress has been spec­tac­u­larly blown out of the wa­ter by the row sur­round­ing the de­par­ture of the Jockey Club CEO, Delia Bushell.

The ac­cu­sa­tions against Bushell – which she de­nies – partly up­held by the club’s in­de­pen­dent QC, made her po­si­tion un­ten­able, ac­cord­ing to its sub-com­mit­tee.

One of them is an al­le­ga­tion that she made a racist re­mark. Now, I have never met Bushell, but while re­search­ing ma­te­rial for this col­umn, I had a long phone con­ver­sa­tion with her about the lack of di­ver­sity in Bri­tish Horserac­ing’s rul­ing bod­ies, and what she was hop­ing to do to cor­rect that.

As a re­sult of that con­ver­sa­tion, I can state with con­fi­dence that Bushell is not a racist and her de­par­ture from the Jockey Club is a huge blow to di­ver­sity be­ing pro­moted in that or­gan­i­sa­tion.

But it is the process of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Bushell that I find deeply trou­bling.

What is also par­tic­u­larly dis­ap­point­ing about this af­fair are the press brief­ings.

Bushell’s shake-up of the ex­ec­u­tive she in­her­ited at the be­quest of her chair­man, Sandy Dud­geon, has been por­trayed as un­suc­cess­ful be­cause she was not “liked” by ev­ery­one.

When do you ever hear of male ex­ec­u­tives fail­ing be­cause they were not liked? Never. In fact a male be­ing tough and abra­sive is a badge of hon­our.

So, the un­sub­tle mes­sage has been that women can only suc­ceed as CEOs if they can charm their male co-work­ers into lik­ing them.

The vast ma­jor­ity of the rank and file of the Jockey Club work tire­lessly for the good of rac­ing and some of them are un­be­liev­ably phil­an­thropic.

It is a great hon­our to be asked to join this club, which is cen­tral to the well be­ing of horserac­ing. And its mem­bers wear their metal badges with pride. But whether they can do so to­day is an­other mat­ter.

There is only one way out of this row. Both par­ties should agree to put all of the ev­i­dence into the pub­lic do­main. Only by ex­am­in­ing it in the cor­rect con­text can a line be drawn un­der this mat­ter.

For those who think this is all just po­lit­i­cal shenani­gans of no con­se­quence to what hap­pens on the race track, per­haps they should bear in mind that with­out own­ers sup­ply­ing horses, there is no rac­ing. And those own­ers want sure-footed lead­er­ship of the sport if they are to in­vest in it.

With that in mind, the fol­low­ing num­bers make sober read­ing. In 2019, the ma­jor Na­tional Hunt sales in Eng­land and Ire­land sold ap­prox­i­mately 2,400 horses at an ag­gra­vate of £34 mil­lion, if you as­sume the ex­change rate was €1.15 to the pound.

In 2020, at the sales which were pulled to­gether to ser­vice that mar­ket, only 885 horses got sold, for £18.5 mil­lion.

There will have pos­si­bly been more pri­vate sales in 2020, which these num­bers do not al­low for. But all the same, the num­bers are quite stark.

Part­ing shots: Delia Bushell’s exit has cast a shadow over the Jockey Club

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