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Racing needs one voice on welfare

Horsemens Group LogoBritish racing has been told it must speak with one voice on equine welfare and that it risks the replacement of the BHA by a government-appointed regulator should the acrimonious debate over the governing body's handling of the issue continue.

Horsemen's Group chairman Philip Freedman said the sport could not ignore the welfare issue and called for an end to the personalisation of the debate.

He was speaking following the incendiary letter from trainer Mick Channon and former trainers Henrietta Knight and Charles Egerton to the Racing Post, which criticised the BHA and its chief executive Nick Rust in the strongest terms as well as accusing the regulator of hiring too many Australians.

The Horsemen's Group's constitution states regulatory matters are left to individual member associations such as the National Trainers Federation, but developments meant Freedman felt compelled to comment, saying there were comparisons to be made with the financial services industry.

"Following the perceived failure of self-regulation the government imposed statutory regulation– first through the Financial Services Authority, and more recently the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority," he said.

"Everyone regulated by those bodies will tell you that the impact of the imposition of a statutory regulator has been greater costs, which racing couldn't afford, and more regulation.

"For the health of racing we must avoid that fate. Horsemen won’t agree with every decision the BHA makes but they are ouronly defence against a statutory regulator."

Freedman warned of the political interest in the issue of equine welfare.He said: "Martin Cruddace [Arc chief executive] and Charlie Liverton [Racehorse Owners Association] attended the All-Party Racing Group in Westminster on Tuesday and the focus of the MPs attending was almost entirely on equine welfare.

"We may not like it but we cannot ignore it. Criticism of the BHA for passing on that message will not make the issue disappear.

"While the letter from trainers referred to in today’s Racing Post contains valid points on welfare issues, attacking individuals whose primary interest is the good of the sport only increases the risk of passing control of its regulation to those with a very different agenda."

Freedman called for the sport to display the same unity it did in the push to win the reform of the levy system, which has resulted in millions of pounds of extra income.

He said: "Progress on levy reform over the last few years shows what we can achieve when racing speaks with one voice and has its disagreements over how that is best achieved in private.

"As welfare replaces the levy as the most important issue facing us, we have an urgent need to revert to that model, or we'll find we're being run by politicians– a fate I would hope we can, at least, all agree is best avoided."

22 March 2019

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