Decision day for Musselburgh Racecourse

Musselburgh Racecourse. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Musselburgh Racecourse. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will make a final decision today on the future of the troubled Musselburgh Racecourse after bosses there reached an 11th-hour agreement to allow an independent review into its governance.

Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC) was given until 5pm last night to agree to terms laid down by the authority or risk being barred from hosting races, putting the next scheduled July 14 meeting in doubt.

MJRC head, Councillor Willie Innes, had initially called for a meeting of its members to discuss the matter next Tuesday, but a last-minute decision by members – made up of four representatives from East Lothian Council and three from the Lothian Racing Syndicate – found no objection to a review.

The BHA will now consider whether the proposals meet its criteria.

A statement from the sport’s governing body said: “BHA has received correspondence confirming that the MJRC and East Lothian Council agree to an independent governance review subject to a number of caveats, on which the BHA is now seeking clarification.

“The BHA is in ongoing discussions with all parties and, as a result of this development, will now confirm no later than 12 noon on Friday, July 7 whether the licence condition has been met and if the next fixture on 14 July can go ahead.”

Staff initially threatened to strike on race days in April after passing two votes of no confidence in the MJRC leadership.

The move led to BHA officials issuing a temporary licence allowing the course to continue hosting events which expired on June 30.

Former chairman John Caldwell was ousted from East Lothian Council in May’s election, with Cllr Innes taking over.

He said in a statement: “I have now been able to ascertain that no member of the MJRC is opposed to an independent governance review.

“I have therefore informed the BHA that the MJRC agrees to an independent governance review in relation to Musselburgh Racecourse.

“On behalf of the MJRC, I have asked East Lothian Council to commission such an independent review.

“I am grateful to the BHA for their ongoing engagement on these matters. My priority is to safeguard the future of racing at Musselburgh and I have been working to progress matters quickly and constructively.

“I hope that the BHA will now be able to grant an extension to the licence – providing welcome certainty for employees and racegoers alike.”

Musselburgh Racecourse chief executive, Bill Farnsworth, said: “We look forward to receiving clarity from the BHA and MJRC by midday tomorrow that a satisfactory agreement has been reached in the best long-term interest of the racecourse. We apologise to the racegoing public and the wider racing industry for the ongoing uncertainty and inconvenience this situation has caused.”