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Governance review goes ahead

Racing saved as BHA renews Musselburgh licence

Hopes raised for course (photo by Terry Murden)

A row over racing at Musselburgh racecourse has been settled, allowing the course to stage next week’s meeting as scheduled.

The British Horse Racing Authority issued a licence following assurances that an independent governance review will take place at the East Lothian venue. 

The announcement came after the BHA last night gave Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee an ultimatum to agree to an independent review of its governance or lose the 14 July meeting.

Committee representative and leader of East Lothian Council Willie Innes conceded to the review after initially saying he would be unable to meet the deadline as he could not convene a meeting until next Tuesday.

He said: “I have now been able to ascertain that no member of the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee is opposed to an independent governance review.

“I have therefore this afternoon [Thursday 6th] informed the British Horseracing Authority that the MJRC agrees to an independent governance review in relation to Musselburgh Racecourse.

“On behalf of the MJRC, I have asked East Lothian Council to commission such an independent review. I am grateful to the BHA for its ongoing engagement on these matters. My priority is to safeguard the future of racing at Musselburgh and I have been working to progress matters quickly and constructively.”

Racecourse chief executive Bill Farnsworth today expressed his relief that the matter had been resolved. A meeting next Friday had been left uncertain because of the dispute.

Mr Farnsworth said: “We are relieved that the BHA has been able to issue a licence to Musselburgh Racecourse which will allow our next meeting on Friday 14 July to proceed as scheduled.

“We are aware recent events have caused much uncertainty in the racing industry and we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused. We would urge racing fans, owners and trainers to support Musselburgh at this meeting as we seek to find a long-term solution to this unfortunate situation.

“We hope the proposed independent governance review will create a modern blueprint which puts the interests of the racecourse first and prevents any similar situation from arising in the future.”

John Prideaux, one of three Lothians Racing Syndicate members on the seven strong Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee which runs Musselburgh Racecourse, said: “We are relieved that a last-minute solution has been found to meet the licencing requirements of the BHA and that racing will go ahead at Musselburgh on 14 July. 

“This regretful and drawn-out episode has been extremely damaging to the reputation of Musselburgh Racecourse and we must now focus on rebuilding confidence in what is one of the Scotland’s best sporting assets.

“The Lothians Racing Syndicate made clear from the outset that we support the BHA requirement to hold a governance review and welcome the BHA ‘s insistence that the review be wholly independent and not simply commissioned by East Lothian Council as Cllr Innes wanted.

“We are committed to working with other MJRC members to ensure the best possible outcome for hard working racecourse staff and the racegoers, trainers and owners who have supported Musselburgh over the years.”

Two factions on the MJRC, which comprises four East Lothian councillors and three from the Lothian Racing Syndicate that include course manager Bill Farnsworth, have been at loggerheads for months. This came to a head last week when the track’s temporary licence expired when no undertaking was given about a review.

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