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where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2020-02-21 13:58:58  
Integrity: racing ‘can do better’

Danie Toerien: In any sport, the threat of cheating and corruption is always very real and very present. But in horseracing, there is also an additional threat – one directly linked to betting and wagering.

And while the sport has come a long way in combatting this scourge, it can do better.

This was highlighted by Annamarie Phelps, Chair of British Horseracing Authority and Vice-Chair of the British Olympic Association, at the 38th Asian Racing Conference taking place in Cape Town.

Horseracing is the sport “that is perhaps the most intrinsically linked to betting,” she said in a plenary session on a day dedicated to protecting racing’s integrity.

“Our rules are explicitly aimed at protecting punters and the sport as a betting product.

“As we know, racing’s always had a greater threat of people either inside or outside trying to manipulate the outcome for their gain.

“To be fair, racing’s always accepted it, it’s dealt with it, and our approach at the BHA has evolved knowing this.”

 

To be strong, racing needs… to rid itself of those
who threaten its reputation and its future. It’s
crucial that journalists relay that message and
that regulators deliver it.

– Leo Schlink, sports journalist at the Herald Sun in Australia

 

According to Phelps, it is vital the leaders in the sport play their critical role in protecting the sport’s integrity.

“The tone and culture is set right at the top of each and every organisation.

“As leaders in racing it’s up to us to set the tone, to be seen to be fair and honest, to be seen to be doing the right thing, running our organisations with integrity and transparency and taking the risk of corruption very seriously.”

But for governing bodies, whose key function is promoting and upholding the integrity of the sport, it’s not that straightforward.

“Instead of just policing those who have broken the rules of the game on the field of play, we now need to understand how integrity works and how cheating and corruption occurs.

“At the BHA we believe it is our role to create an environment where the industry as a whole works together to prevent corruption.

“This will help deter the small number who may be susceptible to corruption in our sport who are also, as we know often the most vulnerable.

“This will also help catch and punish those who do attempt and manage to corrupt our sport.

“We do need to help educate particularly those who are most vulnerable to distinguish what is right and wrong and to be proactive about encouraging reporting and making it as easy as possible for people to speak up when they think things don’t look right.

“There’s always an easy test: If it doesn’t smell right, it probably isn’t right.”

 

The regulator should best be split from the
commercial arm of the sport.

– Ray Murrihy, Integrity Consultant

 

One aspect where there is room for improvement in many jurisdictions seems to be the independence of the regulators.

“The regulator I don’t think should ever be so close to its stakeholders that it can’t question its practices,” said Phelps.

“It’s not easy to question and review those who you know. It can be really difficult and unpopular.”

Bet monitoring systems and a good relationship with the betting industry, is also vital in the war against cheating and corruption.

And, of course, government support to help mitigate the risk of corruption by addressing the risk of criminal interference, as this threatens the integrity and therefore the existence of racing.

 

Every time a person walks off a racecourse on a
losing day, they must have the belief that they at
least lost fair and square.

– David Eades, BBC Presenter and Conference Host

 

Public opinion is also key.

“In the UK as well as elsewhere there is the matter of social licence – the public’s sort of ongoing approval and the broad social acceptance of racing,” said Phelps.

“We could risk losing the support or the neutrality of much of our community if we are perceived as corrupt and accepting of cheating, or if gambling and betting are perceived as so toxic.”

Public and political trust is all the more important as the racing industry relies on the ethical use of animals in its sport.

“The fight against corruption requires coordination across many, many stakeholders and disciplines globally. We need to be upfront and open when we engage with all of our partners in a coordinated and consistent way to fight corruption and criminal activity.

“We need to recognise there are areas we are behind, and where we can learn from other sports. Whether that’s in our governance, whether it’s in fit and proper person tests, whether it’s in considering the vulnerability of some of our participants and safeguarding them.

“Each of us as stakeholders and all of our organisations recognise the role and responsibility we have to the global community to protect the integrity of racing.

“The autonomy of our sport can only be retained if its earned and if the culture of good governance is embedded in every decision we take.”

But with all that said, Phelps believes racing is no worse off than any other sport.

“We often worry about the profile of cheating in racing and integrity. I don’t believe it’s any worse than any other sports whether that’s professional or amateur.”

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