British Jocks Protest Over Cell Phone Ban

The growing rift between Britain's jockeys and the Jockey Club escalated last week when the riders caused the abandonment of flat racing Sept. 14 at Sandown Park, one of the country's premier racecourses.

British Jockey Club measures over the use of mobile phones by jockeys, which took effect Sept. 1 to try and provide more safeguards to the integrity of British racing, have caused a high-profile campaign by riders to gain concessions.

The Club has been willing to give some ground but will not go as far as the jockeys want, leading to the decision by virtually all jockeys not to make themselves available Sept. 14.

The deadline for declaring jockeys for Sandown was extended a couple of times on Sept. 12 but in the end only 27 of the 60 runners in the six races had a booked rider -- most of them being apprentices.

The nub of the situation is that jockeys want to be able to both make and receive calls on their own mobiles during racing -- they are prepared to do this in the Jockey Club's phone area which has a security guard.

The Jockey Club originally wanted jockeys to switch off their own phones from half an hour before racing until after the last and use Club provided phones in the designated area.

The jockeys complained this was a restraint of trade and the Club then said jockeys could go to the phone zone, collect their phone from a pigeon hole or locker, check it for messages and make their necessary calls providing they logged the details of them. But it would not budge on incoming calls.

A stalemate now exists and it has yet to be seen how two entrenched positions can be overcome. Court action is now threatened by jockeys while more boycotts of racing could occur.

The one thing both sides do agree on is that the extensive publicity given to the dispute is damaging the image of British racing.