PJA calls for more breaks with only three days off scheduled for Flat riders
The Professional Jockeys Association has called for more guaranteed and extended time off for riders after the 2021 fixture list revealed Flat jockeys will get only three guaranteed days without racing between mid-April and the start of October.
The workload for riders will initially be balanced by the one-meeting rule remaining until Covid-19 measures are relaxed. A review will take place to determine whether to keep the rule with the BHA stating the change had been embraced for its "wellbeing benefits".
However, the PJA said on Friday it was "no wonder" jockeys suffered burnout at a rate twice as high as other professional athletes and that a quarter of its members had accessed mental health services in 2020.
Dale Gibson, PJA executive director (racing), said: "Due to the Covid-related changes to the fixture list this summer, Flat jockeys, valets and other racing staff will see 167 days of racing with only three guaranteed days off between April 19 and October 2.
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“Participants in racing are not afraid of long days and hard work, but that is a tough gig in anyone’s book. It is no wonder that jockeys suffer burnout at twice the rate of athletes in other professional sports and that more than 25 per cent of PJA members accessed some form of one-to-one mental health support in 2020.
“2022 needs to see a combination of extended breaks and more single-code Sundays. The sport needs to pay more than lip service to participant welfare and any post-Covid financial recovery plan must balance maximising financial returns with the welfare of jockeys, trainers and racing staff.”
He added: “We are pleased the jumps break in August and the two Flat breaks in March and November have been retained as these have proved to be of significant benefit to all jockeys and their families.”
Five fewer fixtures are due to take place in Britain in 2021 compared to last year with an increase in afternoon races, a decrease in evening meetings and a roughly similar breakdown in race-types for jumps (39.6 per cent), Flat (37.8 per cent) and all-weather (22.5 per cent).
Gibson said: “All parties, but especially the BHA racing department, must be thanked for their hard work and skill in maintaining a workable fixture list. However, whilst we need to be mindful of recovering from the financial impacts of the Covid 19 crisis, much more needs to be done to ease the significant pressures on the workforce.”