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Musselburgh future in doubt as BHA refuses to renew licence

Musselburgh: July 14 fixture under threat unless issue is resolved
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Musselburgh's immediate future hangs by a thread after the track's ongoing internal strife on Friday led to the loss of its racing licence.

Unless the venue's ruling Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee agrees to an independent review of its governance by Thursday, the BHA will cancel the scheduled meeting on July 14.

That fixture would not be reallocated, but the July 25 fixture will be if the conditions are not met by July 14.

A BHA statement said: "The BHA can confirm that the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee [MJRC] has not met the conditions set by the BHA for the renewal of its racecourse licence by the required deadline of today, June 30, 2017. This is despite frequent ongoing discussions with the MJRC initiated by the BHA on the issues of concern since late in 2016.

"Accordingly, Musselburgh racecourse’s licence has, for the time being, lapsed.

"While discussions continue – and it remains open to the MJRC to reapply for a licence at any time – it is very much in the hands of the MJRC to meet the necessary licence conditions so that racing can continue at Musselburgh."

The MJRC has seven members, with four from East Lothian Council, which owns the racecourse, holding an in-built majority. 

Willie Innes, leader of East Lothian Council and chairman of the MJRC, said: “The MJRC has responded to the BHA timeously and is continuing to engage with the BHA to progress matters positively and constructively. The MJRC is determined to secure the future of racing at Musselburgh."

John Prideaux, one of the outnumbered three members of the Lothian Racing Syndicate, which has been fighting what amounts to a civil war for some time, described the failure of the committee to agree to BHA demands as "disgraceful", but he added he was not surprised.

He said: "We have indicated throughout we are willing to accept all the conditions imposed by the BHA to have an independent review of the governance of the racecourse. East Lothian Council has not and continues to object to the BHA stipulations. The council's inaction has resulted in the racecourse licence lapsing."

Prideaux added: "East Lothian Council has brought the racecourse very close to closure. There's an opportunity to obtain an extension, but if it does not state unequivocally by July 6 that it will accept the conditions stipulated, then the future of racing at Musselburgh is very, very questionable.

"The conditions are extremely reasonable. Basically, what the BHA is saying is the MJRC has to agree for an independent review into the governance of the racecourse and that the company doing it has to be independent of the council and of the Lothian Racing Syndicate, be approved by the BHA before work begins, and that the recommendations have to be implemented.

"I believe the reason the BHA has insisted upon these stipulations is that at the end of two independent studies it was deemed the MJRC was dysfunctional and not fit for purpose. The council did not like the findings of those reports and so swept them under the carpet for reasons of political expediency."

Musselburgh racecourse chief executive Bill Farnsworth said: "We hope all involved in this situation will put the interests of Musselburgh racecourse first and come to a satisfactory agreement that allows racing to continue."

 

It is very much in the hands of the MJRC to meet the necessary licence conditions so that racing can continue

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