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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

'No chance' of Musselburgh closure insists council as civil war continues

Dream Flyer and Brian Harding soar over a Musselburgh fence in January
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The chairman of the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee which governs Musselburgh racecourse has insisted that there is "no chance" of the course having its licence removed, even as both sides in the civil war at the track doubled down on their positions at a recent meeting.

Councillor John Caldwell, while accusing the members of the Lothian Racing Syndicate on the MJRC of being "vindictive" and "throwing their toys out of the pram," said: "East Lothian council has come to Musselburgh racecourse's aid before and put a lot of money into the course, which has in turn brought a lot of money to the area. We will take all necessary steps to ensure that racing continues past June."

However, it can be revealed that the rift on the MJRC committee between its four councillor members and three representatives appointed by LRS only deepened in a meeting on Monday.

Caldwell said: "We had a long agenda and, after two or three hours, the LRS members absented themselves on a vote that they didn't like and ended the meeting. As a result, there was a lot that wasn't discussed.

The Queen was a visitor to Musselburgh last year

"We always defer to them on racing matters, but the racecourse must also be run like a business and it just doesn't work to walk out whenever things are going against you."

John Prideaux of the LRS painted a different picture, saying: "The inflexible attitude of the council members has not changed at all. They have continued to abuse their inbuilt majority and it ended up in the three LRS members having to absent themselves in order to prevent the councillors pushing through a proposal that without a shadow of a doubt would have resulted in a rebellion among staff and the staff walking out on strike."

He added: "We discussed one item on the agenda, following a proposal by them, and we believe they'd already agreed before the meeting what they wanted to push through. They did so on the chairman's casting vote even though we argued he and another member had a conflict of interest. They weren't interested in that and it's typical of how they've behaved in the last two to three years. They simply don't understand how serious the situation is."

Caldwell has accused LRS members of trying to influence upcoming local elections by generating negative media coverage, but Prideaux said: "We don't have much interest in the election, we just want East Lothian council's representatives to act in the best interests of Musselburgh racecourse and we have already discussed with the council how to achieve that after the elections.

Cullingworth and Sammy Jo Bell land the Royal Mile at Musselburgh

"Musselburgh has been successful thanks to [general manager] Bill Farnsworth, not thanks to the representatives from the local authority."

Musselburgh was put on a temporary licence by the BHA earlier in the month following a letter from LRS members laying out the extent of administrative problems at the course. It expires at the end of June.

We will take all necessary steps to ensure that racing continues past June

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