PJA preparing to offer hardship grants but keen for more support to be available
The Professional Jockeys Association is preparing a system to offer hardship grants to its members, which could come in as early as next week.
A letter to members released on Thursday said the PJA's chief executive Paul Struthers has had a paper approved which proposes a model to provide further support for professional jockeys, agents and valets. The proposal has been sent to the BHA after being unanimously supported by the PJA board.
The shutdown of racing since March 17 has left many riders without income, and the PJA is offering hardship grants to support those facing financial difficulty. This will be an application-style process, funded by the Jockeys' Association Trust, a charity that works closely with the PJA to help assist former and current riders.
But following the announcement that jump racing will be suspended until July, the PJA is looking to work collaboratively with other sectors of the industry to offer further support immediately and in the future.
The message sent to PJA members read: "We can confirm that the PJA Board has approved the paper written by Paul [Struthers] that proposes a model for supporting all professional jockeys, as well as agents and valets, through the current suspension of racing. It has been submitted to the BHA and will form part of racing's full submission covering all aspects of the racing industry.
"The paper highlights that longer-term support is likely to be needed, especially given today's announcement that jump racing is suspended until July 1. There is still no timescale for this support and we cannot guarantee we will be successful but we have stressed how urgently it is needed and hope to launch our own hardship grants very soon indeed, within the next week hopefully.
"In the meantime, anyone facing immediate financial difficulty should continue to contact the IJF, either directly or we can put you in touch."
Struthers told the Racing Post: "What we are looking at with our own funds is the hardship grant system. We can be up and running with that quickly but we want to make sure it is complementary with any centralised support that's on offer."
'A lot of jockeys will be struggling'
Leading jockeys' agent Richard Hale, who works for many Flat and jump riders in the north, believes the grants are hugely important, especially for jump jockeys, but fears some could be forced to exit the industry due to the financial impact of the pandemic.
Hale said: "Anything like this that can help people who are struggling is a good thing. There'll be a lot of lads struggling, maybe not the ones at the top but those at the end of the food chain. Some people won't make a lot money out of riding so they're the ones who will need this sort of support.
"It's hard for a lot of the jump lads especially with no racing for three months. You can't imagine you make a lot riding out, and I think a few of the jump jockeys are going into the Flat yards. It's not easy for them, you need to supplement their income to help them keep ticking over – any support they can get is a good thing.
"It's the same thing for jockeys' agents or trainers too, some are better equipped than others. It depends how successful you've been. It's such a hard situation, the economy is struggling and everyone is doing their best.
"I hope these [hardship grants] go to the people who are really needing it."
Looking further ahead, Hale added: "It may mean in the future that some jockeys have to give up. Even when we come back we don't know what the picture will look like, such as how many horses are in training as many owners own businesses which could be struggling. The bottom line is that we don't know what will happen."
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