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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Departing Stier leaves significant legacy says jockeys' chief Struthers

Jamie Stier: BHA chief regulatory officer returning to Australia
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Revised whip rules, an improved disciplinary procedure and a tougher stance on the fight against steroids are among the legacy Jamie Stier will leave when he departs the BHA next year, according to the chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association.   

Stier, the BHA’s chief regulatory officer, is set to return to Australia during the first half of 2018 having been appointed executive general manager of integrity services at Racing Victoria, with his current employers to begin the search for his successor in the new year.

Having been appointed BHA director of raceday operations and regulation in 2010 following stewarding roles in Australia and Hong Kong, Stier became chief regulatory officer only last year. 

One man who has worked closely with Stier since his arrival in Britain is Paul Struthers, first as communications manager at the BHA and more recently as chief executive of the PJA, and was widely complimentary of his work on Monday.   

“I’ve known Jamie since he arrived and have always liked him and got on well with him,” said Struthers. “We’ve not always seen eye to eye since I moved to the PJA and there have been a couple of very frustrating times, but it’s probably to be expected considering what Jamie’s job is and what my job is. On the whole I think he’s done a good job.”

He added: “I think it says a lot about his character that, despite the downs as well as the ups, he’s stuck at it and come through the other side. I’ve maybe sensed a bit of a softening over the past 12 months and, while he hasn’t got everything right, I think they'll be pretty big shoes to fill.”

Paul Struthers: "On the whole I think he’s done a good job"

Asked what he thought Stier’s legacy at the BHA might include, Struthers said: “The whip rules will be one of them. We have to wait and see where the stewarding system ends up [following the review currently being undertaken by the BHA] but that will obviously be a massive legacy.

"The other one will be the anabolic steroid rules, which is a polarising issue but probably the right decision.

“Then obviously, and potentially inadvertently from Jamie’s point of view, the changes to the disciplinary panel. We obviously had our issue with Jamie over it but the upshot has been positive change since the new panel has come in. We now have a much stronger function for the whole of the sport and I think the current incarnation is a significant improvement.”

Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the National Trainers Federation, also wished Stier well for his return to Australia, although – with tongue in cheek – he urged him to resist any further rule changes before his departure.

“It’s understandable that at this stage of his career Jamie would want to return home to Australia and we wish him well for the future,” said Arnold.

“We’ll continue to work constructively with him on the regulation of racing, and maybe in the time he has remaining he’d like to take a break from writing any new rules.”

Bumpy ride – controversy during Stier's reign 

Perhaps reflecting his roots in Australia and Hong Kong, one of Stier’s first impacts on British racing was to change the way in which stalls were numbered on tracks, making them uniform by being numbered from the inside, a move many felt was unnecessary

One of his first briefs when appointed director of raceday operations and regulation was to review the whip rules, resulting in stricter sanctions being introduced a year later. After an initial backlash the rules were subsequently revised a few times, ultimately ending with appropriate, rather than overly harsh, punishments

Implemented changes to the starting rules for jump races after chaos at the start of that year's Grand National, in which all bar one of the 40 jockeys involved faced disciplinary inquiry

The revelation that four of the 12 distances being used at Wetherby had been incorrect for at least five years prompted the BHA to accelerate plans to survey and remeasure every jumps course using the same methodology in place for Flat tracks, and meant even the Grand National trip was revised the following year

Stier was also at the centre of the storm when Speculative Bid was declared by stewards both a runner and a non-runner when favourite for a major handicap at Ascot in 2015, costing course bookmakers considerable sums and the threat of legal action 

Stier was criticised by the Professional Jockeys Association for not heeding its warning about bias in disciplinary inquiries before the Matthew Lohn case, which led to a rehearing of trainer Jim Best's disciplinary charges

Again at the forefront of a rumpus, after first pointing out “there's nothing in the rules" to prevent Gina Mangan riding in this year’s Derby, only for the BHA to invoke little-known rule 83, giving the authority discretion not to accept the rider's booking for outsider Diore Lia

BHA accused of a "childish tantrum" after Stier pledged to amend the rules of racing following defeat in a landmark anti-doping case surrounding the Philip Hobbs-trained Keep Moving

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I’ve maybe sensed a bit of a softening over the past 12 months and while he hasn’t got everything right, I think they will be pretty big shoes to fill
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