Race days under threat as Musselburgh licence expires

Musselburgh Racecourse. Pic: Andrew O'Brien
Musselburgh Racecourse. Pic: Andrew O'Brien
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UNDER pressure bosses at Musselburgh Racecourse have been given a week to meet conditions laid out by the sports governing body – or be barred from holding race days.

A temporary licence from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) expired yesterday with no solution in place despite weeks of crisis talks.

Now the BHA have set a July 6 deadline for the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC) to demonstrate good governance or it will pull the plug on race night on July 14.

“Musselburgh Racecourse’s licence has, for the time being, lapsed,” read a statement issued by the BHA yesterday evening.

“While discussions continue – and it remains open to the MJRC to reapply for a licence at any time – it is very much in the hands of the MJRC to meet the necessary licence conditions so that racing can continue at Musselburgh.”

The BHA only granted a temporary licence over concerns at how the course was run, including poor budget planning.

Not-for-profit entity the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee – made up of four East Lothian councillors and three members of the Lothians Racing Syndicate (LRS) –run the course. Staff threatened in April to strike on race days after passing two votes of no confidence in the MJRC leadership.

A row between the council and LRS was brought to a head with former MJRC chair John Caldwell losing his seat in May’s local elections.

“The BHA understands the need to give horsemen, racecourses, betting operators and the public as much notice about future fixture changes as possible,” continued the BHA statement. “Should it wish to continue with the fixture on July 14, the MJRC must provide an unequivocal commitment to meeting the licence conditions by close of business on July 6.”

If the MJRC fail to meet the criteria by close of play on July 6, the July 14 race night will be scrapped.

And should no agreement in time for the July 25 meeting to go ahead, then the BHA will move it to another venue.

Musselburgh attracted a record 70,000 people last year but cannot stage racing without the BHA’s official endorsement.

John Prideaux, representing the LRS, said: “Any uncertainty over the licence is detrimental to the racecourse.”

East Lothian Council Leader and Chair of the MJRC, Willie Innes, said: “The MJRC has responded to the BHA timeously and is continuing to engage with the BHA to progress matters positively and constructively. The MJRC is determined to secure the future of racing at Musselburgh.”