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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Operation punished for flouting Oaks sponsorship rule

John Ferguson: association with Godolphin stretches back three decades
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Godolphin yesterday admitted deliberately flouting the strict sponsorship rules in place for the Investec Oaks as they were fined £15,000 for displaying the branding of their own sponsor Emirates at Epsom in June.

Managing director Hugh Anderson said Godolphin regretted the actions but had been "compelled to bring the issue into the spotlight" as Sheikh Mohammed's elite racing organisation received a fine towards the higher end of the penalty range for the offence from the BHA's disciplinary panel.

The BHA said its executive would discuss the issues of potentially conflicting sponsorship arrangements raised by the case at a meeting next month.

Investec has an exclusivity arrangement over branding during the Derby festival as a result of which no other sponsor logos are allowed to be displayed around runners in the Oaks, Coronation Cup and Derby.

On Oaks day, the groom leading up Godolphin runner Skiffle wore the team's own sponsored jacket and chief executive John Ferguson instructed jockey William Buick to remove tape put over the Emirates branding by a BHA official.

Ferguson, who is overseas, did not attend the hearing at which Godolphin were represented by Anderson as the panel issued a fine towards the higher end of the penalty scale for the offence which has a range of £1,000-£25,000 and an entry point of £3,000.

In a statement, Anderson said: "We welcome the BHA’s comments in raising the wider issue of sponsorship arrangements at the next executive committee meeting in September.

"As is the case with any sport, greater alignment around sponsorship will not only benefit the industry and all its stakeholders, it will ensure all commercial parties who invest significantly in our sport are nurtured – something which the current exclusivity deal around the Oaks does not do.

"We accept the consequences of our actions and regret we felt compelled to bring this issue into the spotlight in this way."

BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey said: "The disciplinary panel found that a breach of Rule (A)39 – requirement to comply with controls on sponsorship – was committed by Godolphin at Epsom on Oaks day in that they instructed the attendant leading up Skiffle to wear a jacket carrying Godolphin’s own sponsor’s logo, and instructed the rider to remove the tape that had been put over their sponsor’s logo from his riding silks. These actions are prohibited because Investec have an exclusivity deal when it comes to sponsorship on Oaks and Derby day.

“The actions of Godolphin on the day were a clear and admitted breach of the rules, and it was appropriate for the BHA to pursue the matter and have the disciplinary panel consider what disciplinary action was warranted.

“However, we believe there is a wider question here as to whether the sport can do more to avoid potentially conflicting sponsorship arrangements and also whether the BHA’s resources are best used enforcing rules which address issues more relevant to our sport’s commercial parties. These topics have already been raised for discussion at a meeting of the sport’s executive committee on September 12.”

The Derby meeting is one of only two fixtures at which jockeys and owners are not allowed to display their own sponsors' branding, with the other at the Grand National meeting.

Racehorse Owners Association chief executive Charlie Liverton said: "We have a sponsorship scheme ourselves with SIS and 95 per cent of the time that is adhered to and those owners who are sponsored by the ROA have SIS on their silks. There are just two instances a year when they are not allowed to wear their own sponsor.

"As part of an industry-wide consultation this has been raised and all stakeholders are looking at it. All stakeholders need to have this discussion but if you have a commercial sponsor you have a commercial sponsor."

We accept the consequences of our actions and regret we felt compelled to bring this issue into the spotlight in this way

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