Corruption Allegations in Britain Bring Call for Serious Change

The fallout from the Oct. 7 BBC Television program "Panorama," which alleged widespread corruption in British racing, has been considerable. British Jockey Club security chief Jeremy Phipps resigned Oct. 9, and British Horseracing Board chairman Peter Savill has called for one ruling body rather than two.

In addition, there have been allegations and counter-allegations between whistleblower Roger Buffham and his former employer, the Jockey Club. This all came during a week in which media coverage of British racing was widespread and reached outside of the sports pages.

Phipps, who was secretly recorded on the Panorama program by his predecessor Buffham being derogatory about his employers, said he stepped down because "trial by press...made my position untenable" following eight months in the job.

The BHB, more democratic than the self-electing 250-year old Jockey Club, held a board meeting Oct. 10 and then issued a three-paragraph statement. It reaffirmed its commitment to work with the Jockey Club to ensure the highest levels of integrity. Separately, Savill issued his own statement, which he said contained personal views.

"Effective regulation is the bedrock of a successful racing industry," Savill said. "Without it, the many initiatives which are being taken to modernize, develop, and popularize our sport will be severely constrained."

The BHB is conducting a widespread review of the structure of British racing, and that includes areas of responsibility, such as security and regulation, which are currently under the Jockey Club's wing.

"We currently have, effectively, two governing bodies, the BHB and Jockey Club, whereas all other sports and racing jurisdictions have just one. In order to modernize our structure, I believe that we need to merge the governance and regulatory responsibilities of the two governing bodies into one. That is not to say that the BHB will take over regulation. I firmly believe that the regulatory function needs to operate independently, even if under the same umbrella."
The Jockey Club publicly had no problem with Savill's views, and there will be a joint BHB/Jockey Club review of the security function.

Keith Brown, chairman of the Racecourse Association that represents Britain's 59 racecourses, reacted very strongly. "I am totally opposed to the control of racing being concentrated into one body," he said. "One only has to observe the huge tensions between the racecourses and the BHB, which is abusing its governance powers against the racecourses' commercial interests, to see that this would be utterly wrong."

Brown said Savill is using the Panorama program "in a cynical attempt to control more of racing at a time when the BHB has yet to put its own house in order."

Savill challenged Brown to introduce a motion of no confidence in his chairmanship of the BHB. So as well as mounting allegations of corruption--various former jockeys and owners have surfaced with so far unsubstantiated claims--the head-to-head power struggle between the RCA and BHB has flared again.

On top of that, Britain's daily racing paper on Oct. 14 led with a story of a trainer's fears that his horse could have been doped before a race at Ascot Oct. 12. Meanwhile, Buffham and the Jockey Club have traded statements and briefings in an attempt to undermine each other, and the Jockey Club has played down the alleged incidence of corruption within the sport.