Call for ex-jockeys to be given lifetime racecourse access to aid mental health
Former PJA chief executive Josh Apiafi is calling for an industry-wide jockeys' recognition badge to enable ex-riders to continue to go racing after retirement.
The suggested initiative aims to allow retired jockeys to maintain a connection with the sport and their former weighing room colleagues.
Apiafi told the Racing Post on Sunday: "When you retire you're almost cast out and this is a big mental health problem. The day after you announce your retirement a security officer would not allow you to enter the weighing room. It's awful, it's almost like being kicked out of your friendship group or support group.
"I want to push for a jockeys' badge that only they can use, so they can go racing on any day and remain a part of that community and continue to see the same people they've sat next to for years."
Apiafi headed the PJA from 2007 to 2009, and went on to highlight how the badges would apply only to those who have lost their claim.
He added: "I wouldn't want to give these badges to just anyone, but if a jockey loses their claim – so had 75 winners over jumps or 95 on the Flat – you should get a recognition badge for life. One of my good friends is Nick Bentley, who rode over 100 winners from more than 700 rides, and he needs to ring up to get a badge to go racing.”
The initiative has already received the backing of current PJA chief executive Paul Struthers and Arena Racing Company CEO Martin Cruddace, as well as ex-jockey Charlie Poste.
Apiafi said: "The PJA is very supportive of it – Paul Struthers has said it's a fantastic idea and they're 100 per cent behind it. I've spoken to Martin about it and he’s said he'd be very supportive of it.
"The plan would be that as soon as a jockey loses their claim, on their retirement they'll get that badge. In other words, they've put a lot into the industry and this is the industry giving back.
"You currently see the likes of ex-BHA executives getting a badge for life from the RCA, which is fine, but equally these jockeys have worked tirelessly for the sport and get nothing. It's not going to cost anyone anything other than the cost of making the badge itself."
Poste appeared on the Racing Debate on Sky Sports Racing and noted how the proposal would work to stop ex-jockeys feeling isolated and promote inclusivity in the sport even after retirement.
He said: "I think it would make a huge difference just to have that feeling that you're still part of something. You have this special relationship and camaraderie in the weighing room, and once you stop and have to find a new career it’s incredible how quickly you lose touch with people.
"At least by having a badge, it offers the opportunity to go racing and see old friends."
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