Musselburgh's future hangs in the balance as row rumbles on
East Lothian Council in effect took control of the racecourse and its governance in announcing plans for a new six-member committee, including four councillors to run the council-owned track.
However, John Prideaux, chairman of the Lothians Racing Syndicate, immediately hit out at the council, accusing it of ignoring legally-binding agreements over managing the racecourse.
He also posed the question: "How can the BHA award a licence to local councillors who have absolutely no knowledge of or interest in horseracing?”
The continuing war of words is against a backdrop of Musselburgh needing to get its house in order by April 7, when the temporary licence issued by the BHA runs out.
There could be a fiery industry roadshow at Musselburgh on Friday, where local racing figures could be expected to voice their concern.
The BHA had called for an independent governance review of the current Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee and implementation of its recommendations.
The review, agreed by the council and the Lothians Racing Syndicate, who between them make up the MJRC, was carried out by solicitors Pinsent Masons, who came up with "a number of options".
ELC members voted unanimously for a new Musselburgh Racing Associated Committee comprising four cross-party councillors and two members representing racing interests.
The meeting also agreed a new sub-committee could be formed to provide additional skills and expertise to potentially improve stakeholder balance.
Councillor Fiona O’Donnell said: “Musselburgh racecourse has been a home to horseracing for more than 200 years. It's a much-loved venue which we want to see continue operating successfully – in the interests of racegoers, our economy, the local community and its valued employees.
“The council has done all it can to work constructively with the LRS and I have personally met and updated racecourse employees, who are its greatest asset, throughout this difficult process."
Prideaux begged to differ, saying: "The racecourse staff have a contract of employment with MJRC but continue to be treated with contempt, and have been told they are to become council employees without any reference to their current employer."
Racecourse staff could take industrial action, it was stated last week, while Prideaux also called into question the legality of the council's changes.
"Today’s decision by East Lothian Council has ridden roughshod over legally binding provisions contained in a Minute of Agreement concerning the management of Musselburgh racecourse," he said.
“This Minute of Agreement remains in force and cannot be altered without the approval of both parties of the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee, but the council have ignored this important fact because it does not fit with their desire to assume overall control of the racecourse."
Prideaux called on the BHA to "carefully consider if the council's decision is genuinely in the best interests of Musselburgh racecourse, its staff and racing in Scotland.”
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