Open Letter to Racing From the Senior Steward On Mobile Phone Restrictions
Published: 11 September 2003
OPEN LETTER TO RACING FROM THE SENIOR STEWARD
RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF MOBILE PHONES DURING RACING
It is the Jockey Club’s role to uphold the integrity of racing and enhance public confidence in the sport. To achieve this goal, we believe that everyone concerned – not only regulators, but trainers, owners, jockeys and all licensed individuals – has a role to play.
Last year revelations emerged from the Barrie Wright trial about some jockeys passing inside information to gamblers via mobile phones from the weighing room. Subsequently, two in-depth reviews were conducted examining the threats posed to the integrity of the sport. These review committees included a High Court judge, an ex-Chief Constable, a criminal barrister, a representative of DCMS, a former professional jockey and several experienced racing administrators. The Security Review independently chaired by Ben Gunn, endorsed the view of the Integrity Review Committee that the Jockey Club must take steps to control the use of phones by jockeys during racing. This recommendation was further endorsed by the BHB as recently as last week.
The Jockey Club is not alone in taking action in this area. The need for controls is recognised in many major racing countries. Authorities in Australia, Hong Kong and Japan, for example, impose more stringent controls than those introduced here. In addition, the emergence of betting exchanges in Britain has added significant additional threats to the integrity of racing through their facility to allow anyone to lay a horse to lose. Pressure for inside information from the jockeys’ changing room will inevitably increase.
The Jockey Club recognises that in Britain’s scattered racing environment the jockeys do need to communicate to run their busy lives. We have therefore rejected the idea of a total ban on phones during racing. We have instead developed systems for regulating phone use which recognise the essential needs of jockeys.
The consultation process with the Jockeys’ Association has been lengthy, dating back nearly ten months. Following talks with jockeys, valets and agents, a scheme was developed which would enable jockeys to make outgoing calls from Jockey Club supplied phones. Details of this proposal were circulated to all riders in May along with the implementation date of 1st September. No further concern was expressed to the Jockey Club by the Jockeys Association. However, in August, the Jockey Club was contacted by a solicitor representing a number of jockeys.
Representatives from the Jockey Club met separately with the solicitor and Michael Caulfield, following the meetings the Jockey Club agreed to some interim measures to demonstrate our commitment to evolving the detail of the long-term application of the restrictions.
At a meeting on Tuesday 9th September, representatives of the Jockey Club had further meetings. The Jockey Club listened to their concerns and offered an alternative to the use of Jockey Club supplied phones under which jockeys could use their own phones in a designated phone zone.
On Thursday another meeting took place in an effort to resolve the jockeys remaining concerns. The outcome of that meeting was to make a further offer to the Jockeys Association viz. that a trial period be introduced as soon as practicable running until the end of the year. This will be subject to regular review meetings with the Jockeys Association, with the following conditions applying:
From half an hour before racing until the start of the final race (i.e. the restricted period), personal phones must be switched off.
At any time during the restricted period, without requesting permission, jockeys can take their phones to the ‘phone zone’, an area adjacent to the Clerk of the Scales, and switch them on, checking for messages or making calls; calls made must be logged, with the time of the call, by and to whom.
Incoming calls are not permitted, neither is outward text messaging during the restricted period.
During the restricted period, if trainers wish to give instructions to their jockeys, they can do so via their representative’s telephone in the ‘phone zone’ (i.e. jockeys may receive calls from their trainers in this way).
Access to jockeys’ phone records for the restricted period could be requested by the Jockey Club, with random requests being made on occasions throughout the year.
The present system of the Jockey Club provided phones will remain in place for those jockeys who would prefer to make calls from the Changing Room rather than the ‘phone zone’ area of the Weighing Room.
In the meantime the existing system of restrictions will remain in place.
Following revelations in recent court cases, and the widespread publicity given to allegations in TV programmes, it is more important than ever that the public has confidence in the integrity of racing. This involves taking effective measures to close the loopholes through which the integrity of the sport has previously been compromised. These controls are not being introduced without care or consideration by the Jockey Club. We believe we have acted reasonably and responsibly, have listened carefully to representations, and have been prepared to be flexible. The way forward surely lies with constructive dialogue and not boycotts or strikes, or if need be, let the courts be the arbiter to avoid British Racing needlessly suffering.
11th September 2003