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Barrister called in to investigate complaint against Jockey Club chief executive

Delia Bushell became Jockey Club chief executive in October
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Jockey Club chief executive Delia Bushell, one of British sport's most powerful individuals, is at the centre of a formal complaint made against her by a senior colleague.

The Racing Post understands Jockey Club staff are now waiting to discover the findings of the barrister brought in to investigate.

Bushell, who previously held high-ranking roles with Sky and BT Sport, has led the Jockey Club and its 500 permanent employees for less than a year. She joined the organisation in September and one month later officially succeeded Simon Bazalgette when his 11-year tenure as group chief executive came to an end.

Although still relatively new to the job, Bushell has quickly made a big impression, not least by playing a prominent role in the marathon negotiations with ITV that last week resulted in the sport's exclusive mainstream television partner signing a new three-year contract.

A new ITV deal was announced earlier this month

It was from within the Jockey Club Racecourses board – made up of senior staff members – that the formal complaint against Bushell was made.

Given the nature of the complaint, the Jockey Club's board of stewards felt it appropriate to instigate an outside investigation, during the course of which it is believed the complainant and Bushell were interviewed, alongside a number of other colleagues. A report is now awaited.

A spokesperson for the Jockey Club said: "We do not comment on personnel matters."

Bushell was new to the sport when selected to take charge at the Jockey Club but boasts a striking career record, having worked three years as managing director of BT Sport, prior to which she spent 14 years in a number of positions at Sky.

"Under Delia’s leadership I am confident the Jockey Club will go from strength to strength in order to benefit our sport," Jockey Club senior steward Sandy Dudgeon said in announcing the appointment of an individual whose media background was deemed especially attractive.

Bushell called on that experience when taking a pull on the talks with ITV that Bazalgette had been keen to conclude positively last year. 

Jockey Club senior steward Sandy Dudgeon

However, relations between Bushell and ITV director of sport Niall Sloane have been strained, while her leadership style is thought to have caused friction internally in the Jockey Club and with others in the industry.

In May, Bushell resigned as a director of Racecourse Media Group, the body that has traditionally led television rights discussions on behalf of its members, which include the Jockey Club. That move was said to be part of a wider reassessment of who represents the Jockey Club on industry boards and committees.

As the Jockey Club's senior executive, Bushell is one of the most important leaders in British racing, with the sport's largest commercial group owning 15 racecourses, whose crown jewels are the Grand National, Derby and Cheltenham Festival.

The 270-year-old body, governed by royal charter and with the Queen as its patron, is also responsible for the training facilities in Newmarket, Lambourn and Epsom. It owns the National Stud and has Racing Welfare as its charity arm.

Among the most pressing tasks facing the Jockey Club is dealing with the financial challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic – which caused this year's Randox Health Grand National to be cancelled – and finding a new sponsor for the Derby following Epsom's mutually agreed parting with Investec.

Despite expected losses of £75m in revenue this year due to the impact of Covid-19, it dipped into its coffers last week to shore up prize-money with a £3.7 million contribution for the last four months of 2020.

Outside of the Jockey Club, Bushell is a non-executive director of the England & Wales Cricket Board and Commonwealth Games England, while she also sits on the advisory board of the Telegraph Media Group.

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Given the nature of the complaint, the board of stewards felt it appropriate to instigate an outside investigation
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