BHA implements changes to incoming whip rules

04 Jan 2023 BHA Features Integrity Welfare

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has, following a recent Board Meeting, introduced adjustments to the rule changes regarding the use of the whip in British racing.

The changes are:

  • The rule which stated that the whip may only be used in the backhand position has been removed.
  • It has been replaced by an amendment to the rules regarding the number of times the whip may be used in a race. The thresholds for use will, as a result, now be reduced to a maximum of six times in a Flat race and seven times in a Jump race (down from seven and eight respectively)
  • Penalties for use above the permitted level, and misuse offences such as using the whip above shoulder height, without time to respond or in the incorrect place will be further increased, above and beyond the previous increases published in November

This change follows additional concerns being raised by jockeys in the last few weeks, including some information which was not aired during the consultation or technical discussion phase. This included the feedback that some jockeys who have suffered shoulder or collarbone injuries may find use of the whip solely in the backhand more challenging.

Following a period of dialogue between the BHA, PJA and jockeys, the BHA Board met to consider further representations from all parties, before deliberating and agreeing on the revisions to the rules.

The objectives of the package of 20 recommendations includes developing rules which foster more considered and judicious use of the whip for encouragement, and improving the perception of whip use. The BHA Board agreed that these objectives could be met equally through either the backhand-only rule, or the reduction in thresholds and increase in penalties announced today, when combined with the full package of measures announced in the summer.

These changes do not, in the view of the BHA Board, reflect a dilution of the package of rule changes, but instead a method of achieving the same outcomes through a different approach.

The other 19 recommendations and rule changes put forward by the Steering Group and approved by the BHA Board remain unchanged.

The full package of measures includes:

  • The introduction of disqualification as a penalty for use of the whip four times or more above the permitted level. This rule remains unchanged by the adjusted thresholds announced today.
  • The introduction of a Whip Referral Committee which is responsible for evaluation of all rides and any necessary sanction or action, to increase consistency and drive ongoing improvement in riding standards
  • The removal of “discretion” being applied by the stewards around interpretation of whip offences. Therefore every use of the whip will count towards the thresholds for use, unless it has been used clearly and unequivocally for safety purposes. This will have the effect of further reducing whip use.
  • Increased penalties for offences, including doubled suspensions in major races

The implementation date for the new rules remains at 9 January 2023 for the ‘bedding in’ period in Jump racing, during which jockeys will be asked to ride under the new rules but will not be subject to the new penalty framework. Full implementation over Jumps then begins on 6 February. This allows Jump jockeys over two months to adapt to the new rules before the start of the Cheltenham Festival.

In Flat racing the soft launch commences on 27 February and full implementation on 27 March.

David Jones, Regulatory Independent Non-Executive Director for the BHA, and Chair of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said:

“An extremely thorough consultation was carried out over the course of 2021 and 2022, followed by an extensive technical discussion phase after the publication of the recommendations in July this year.

“Efforts were taken to listen to the views of jockeys from both codes, over many hours. This consultation has arguably been the most thorough undertaken by the BHA in relation to any specific regulatory reform in the past.

“In order to ensure that this process was suitably rigorous we pushed back the planned autumn implementation date for new rules.

“However, we are committed to listening to our participants, and when further views and information come to light very late in the day, and following the conclusion of that process, we were duty bound to consider it, and make representations to the BHA Board accordingly.”

Joe Saumarez Smith, Chair of the BHA Board, said:

“The BHA Board had previously endorsed the clear set of objectives set out by the Whip Consultation Steering Group in the summer. They included that the perception of whip use must be improved by ensuring that its use is more judicious and better controlled.

“It became clear through the views raised in the last few weeks, and which were presented to the BHA Board, that the backhand-only rule could potentially have caused difficulties for some riders. However, in considering making changes it was essential that the BHA Board were not doing anything to dilute the outcome of the whip report.

“The BHA Board has therefore agreed these further changes, which resolve the issues with the backhand-only rule, but retain the objective of making whip use visibly more palatable to the public, therefore helping to safeguard engagement with the sport amongst our fans present and future.

“We now hope and expect to see these new rules being respected and a visible change in whip use to be brought about amongst our jockeys, and those riding over here.

“The Board also expressed the view that the sport should try to avoid any situation arising again whereby, following the conclusion of an extensive consultation process, further pertinent information comes to light. This point has been strongly emphasised to the PJA and we are pleased that the PJA has agreed to review its consultation processes in the light of this.”

Notes to Editors

1. The further alterations to the penalty structure are as follows:

2, The initial announcement of the findings of the whip report, on 12 July 2022, can be found here.

3. The update which confirmed implementation dates for the new rules can be found here

4. The full set of 20 original recommendations can be found here.

An adjustment has been made to recommendation 4 as a result of today’s announcement, in order that it now states:

“The whip rules will be amended to allow use for encouragement in both the backhand and forehand positions, with the maximum number of permitted uses limited to 6 in flat races and 7 in jump races”

5. The Rules, which also sets out the procedures for how an enquiry / hearing of the Whip Review Committee will work, can be found here.

6. The detailed guidance, and penalty framework for rule breaches, can be found here.