'Uncertainty over Musselburgh's future is hurting the staff'
Musselburgh's clerk of the course has called on local politicians to put their egos aside and sort out the issues that have placed the immediate future of the track in jeopardy after its licence lapsed.
Harriet Graham spoke up for some 150 raceday staff, many of them casual workers on a low wage, whose jobs may now be at risk unless the council-led committee that oversees the track agrees to review its governance.
Members of the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee, on which the course's owner East Lothian Council has an in-built majority, have been at loggerheads for months, which led to the BHA not agreeing to renew the licence last week.
The MJRC has been given until Thursday to submit to an independent review or the next scheduled meeting on July 14 will be cancelled – a move that would have major consequences on the non-permanent members of staff who rely on the income from raceday work, according to Graham.
She said: "I'm one of the many employed by Musselburgh on a raceday who are horrified that the racecourse could be closed. The ripple effect on the local economy will be horrendous. Surely the council-led MJRC needs to act in the best interests of the racecourse, and in no way should this mean closing it."
She added: "The raceday team are so committed to giving their best, many relying on the income to pay bills. All the BHA is asking is for there to be an independent review of the governance of the racecourse. I don't see what's wrong with this.
"None of us has heard from our newly appointed chairman or been given any reassurance or indication how our livelihoods will be affected ahead of the new few meetings.
"This is such a shabby way to treat a loyal and hard-working staff. I would have thought a Labour-led council would have shown a bit more respect."
East Lothian Council issued a statement on Friday night in which MJRC chairman and council leader Willie Innes 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."
Musselburgh has 15 permanent staff, but Graham said an average raceday team would also comprise some 50 catering staff, 30 groundstaff, 23 security staff, 14 stalls handlers, 12 customer care staff, nine medics, five vets, three valets and three stable care staff, who get paid only when there is a race meeting.
"Nobody has considered us in this. Some people may earn £4,000 a year from Musselburgh but that could be the difference between paying their mortgages or even putting food on the table.
"People working these sorts of jobs don't all have something else to fall back on. They are supplementing their meagre incomes so need the money. I don't think these councillors have a clue how it all works.
"This is a bit more than a whole load of council egos that are at risk here. If there is no racing these people will get a text saying don't turn up, even if they have taken annual leave or made arrangements with their other job.
"The full time groundstaff will continue to maintain the course as normal, regardless of whether we race, but the teams who come in around raceday who do the extra jobs of cleaning and bedding down stables, washing down the paddock area, putting out furniture, won't be required. The whole thing is so frustrating."