BBC TV Show Could Have Implications for Racing
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2002 7:55 AM
Posted: Friday, October 4, 2002 3:03 PM
A hard-hitting BBC television program, which will be broadcast in Great Britain Oct. 6, relates what it claims to be one of the biggest scandals in the history of British sport.
The hour-long Panorama program, developed since the start of the year and
titled the "Corruption of Racing," features claims of race-fixing, bribery, and corruption of jockeys, and bookmakers offering trainers secret no-lose betting accounts plus other allegations. Panorama, the BBC's flagship investigative program, accuses the British Jockey Club of lacking the resolve to tackle such issues.
Roger Buffham, who headed the Jockey Club Security Department for nine years after being brought in to make the policing of the sport more effective, provided nearly all the information on which the Panorama program is based. Sacked after allegations of gross misconduct in August 2001 relating to sexual harassment, Buffham said he went to Panorama because he was shocked at the Club's inaction.
Panorama portrays Buffham as the man who decided to break ranks, the whistleblower, for the best of motives, while the Jockey Club said he is an aggrieved ex-employee who stole secret papers and broke a confidentiality agreement.
The 250-year-old Club had to hand over some of its powers to the more democratic British Horseracing Board when that organization was formed in June 1993, but retained its regulatory function on and off the course.
Panorama and Buffham say the Club has failed to do its job properly, highlighting corruption going back 12 years and more. The Club argues it is acting with one hand tied behind its back in that it has no right of access to betting information from bookmakers and claims there is no evidence of widespread corruption.
Buffham, with a background in military intelligence, said: "After almost 10 years in racing, I am saying with sadness and great disappointment that racing is not straight, as the Jockey Club and others would ask the public to believe. I believe that racing is institutionally corrupt in some respects."
In April, the Club's present security chief, Jeremy Phipps, met Buffham in order to find out if he was leaking information appearing in newspapers. Phipps concluded that his predecessor was the source, and the Club took Buffham to court in May to enforce a confidentiality agreement and won.
However, the BBC, for whom Buffham has been a paid consultant, launched an appeal and partially won the right to use certain Jockey Club documents in the public interest.
Panorama dwelt on the activities of Brian Wright, convicted of massive drug smuggling but on the run, who is alleged to have ordered horses to be doped, bribed jump jockeys in return for hospitality and cash, and paid for inside information. Wright is said to have entertained the jockeys at clubs, hotels and his Spanish villa, providing food, drink, drugs, and girls free of charge. He used betting to launder drugs money.
Former jump jockey Dermot Browne, who admitted to doping 27 horses between August and October 1990 at the request of Brian Wright, says on the
program that steeplechase jockeys were paid about £5,000 to lose races, even at the Cheltenham Festival which is the highlight of Britain's jump season.
Browne, who was warned off by the Jockey Club for 10 years in 1992, claimed he tried to reveal details of Brian Wright's activities to the Club many years ago but was rejected.
Panorama named two former jump jockeys in the programme, Graham Bradley and Barrie Wright (no relation to Brian Wright), and asked why the Club had not taken any action. Both men are subject of future disciplinary hearings, with Bradley's set for next month.
Bradley, now a bloodstock agent, was confronted Panorama reporter Andy Davies but denied any wrongdoing. The BBC program does not name any other jump jockeys.
There was a sting in the tail for Phipps as his April meeting with Buffham
was secretly recorded. Phipps, a former SAS chief, said on the tape that the 120 members of the Club were (bleeping) ignorant, questioned why the Club had not done anything but issue the odd warning, and concluded the Club's backbone is not terribly strong.
When confronted later by the program makers, Phipps initially denied saying the Club had no backbone but, after consultation with the Club's public relations director, explained that he had been trying to get Buffham on his side by agreeing to his views.
Allegations about links between flat jockeys and Chinese criminals were broadcast, with the suggestion that this may be ongoing. The Jockey Club refused to comment on this aspect as the newspaper that initially aired the allegations is being sued for libel by a jockey.
Panorama claims that the betting industry has been allowed to develop a culture of secret deals where the odds are stacked against the bettor, calling this racing's version of insider trading.
It highlights letters from bookmaker Victor Chandler to two trainers, one in 1993 and the other in 1996, offering no lose accounts and the backtracking by William Hill over offering information about bets on a 1996 two-horse Warwick jump race in which the favourite Man Mood was pulled up.
Both bookmakers did nothing wrong under the Club's rules of racing which have subsequently been amended to effectively ban no lose betting accounts.
Christopher Foster, the Jockey Club's long-standing executive director, is extensively featured in the program, having been interviewed for 2 1/2 hours and asked 250 questions. The Club argues that it has no jurisdiction over betting, which means it is very difficult to bring watertight cases against those involved in any corruption.
Regarding Brian Wright, the Club says it has been stymied from doing anything first by the police investigation, which was prompted by the Club's intelligence-gathering in 1996, then by the customs investigation into serious criminal matters, followed by the reporting restrictions imposed over the long series of trials and only now can address the issues and evidence heard in court.
The Club introduced a rule in 1996 to deter jockeys and trainers from mixing with criminals, and since then one person has lost their license. Panorama concludes by saying that the Club had failed to stop 15 years of systematic corruption and the racing industry deserves firmer regulation.
Calls have been already been made Oct. 4, following the press showing of
the program, for Phipps and Foster to resign or have their employment terminated. The British Horseracing Board or the proposed government Gambling Commission could take over some or all of the 250-year-old Club's investigative functions.
Following the screening, the producer, Stephen Scott, claimed there has been a campaign to damage Buffham's credibility. Scott said: "Prior to the summer of 2001, Buffham, who brought in lots of reforms at Jockey Club, had been the subject of intense criticism by the racing press and had been blamed wrongly for the collapse of a criminal trial at Southwark Crown Court at the end of 2000.
"He had been called a buffoon and had no support whatsoever from the racing press, some of whom, we have learnt in the course of this (investigation), have got quite improper relationships with bookmakers. I think the racing press need to look at themselves in this sorry saga rather than pointing at a man who has paid a high price for the work he has done in attempting to regulate horseracing and who knew, when we first discussed making this program, that he would be the subject of criticism and worse as a result.
"His reputation has been severely damaged during the course of his employment with the Jockey Club and afterwards. He has been attacked again and again over the last few months."
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