Changes to whip use and sanctions are on the cards *H&H Plus*

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  • The British Horseracing Authority has announced and explained how its consultation on whip use will work. H&H was present at the launch to find out more

    CHANGES to whip use and related sanctions in racing are likely to come into force next year.

    The news came as the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) launched its delayed public consultation on whip use in the sport on 1 July.

    Brant Dunshea, BHA chief regulatory officer, stressed this is “not a polarised yes-no debate” or “referendum” over whether the whip stays or goes, rather it is a question of how it is used and what the sanctions are for misuse. But he added that some reform is likely and “nothing is off the table entirely”.

    “What is clear is that the whip is an issue of public trust, and the sport must be alive and responsive to the view of the public, who are our current and future customers,” he said, adding that it is also a question of sporting fairness.

    “Society must trust horse sport to be ethical and reflect its values to maintain acceptance. We acknowledge that. The long-term health of British racing has never been more important in light of the current situation we are all living through, with regard to Covid and its impacts over the last 18 months. Public trust in the sport will play a pivotal role in the sport’s recovery and plans for growth.”

    He added: “While nothing has been predetermined and no decision has been made – there are no options that are off the table – I think it would be a reasonable expectation that there will be some level of reform as a consequence of this process.”

    Questions include whether participants should be disqualified for whip rule breaches.

    “It’s important to note the whip is widely recognised as a potential aid for safely controlling and instructing horses, and whips are carried in most equine sports for that purpose,” said Mr Dunshea.

    “It is for that reason the horse welfare board recommended that the consultation should look at the rules under which the padded whips are used, which is currently for encouragement, correction and safety, and the penalties for breaches of those rules, rather than recommending a debate on whether the whip should be banned outright.”

    The first phase of the consultation is an online questionnaire, open to all, running for 10 weeks.

    Further phases include “detailed discussions” with relevant individuals, and focus groups with volunteers. Mr Dunshea confirmed the steering group is seeking views of the wider equestrian sporting world as part of this.

    There are already strict rules on the use of whips in British racing. The last reform was in 2011 and Mr Dunshea said the need to continually look at areas such as this, in the light of how society and views shift, is something racing acknowledges it needs to do as a “progressive, modern sport”.

    The proposed timeline is for the new rules to be decided in January 2022, followed by a “bedding-in” phase, and changes implemented in the spring, after the Grand National and ahead of the first Classics.

    The consultation was a recommendation by the racing industry’s horse welfare board. It was originally set to be concluded by October 2020, but was delayed by Covid.

    BHA chief executive Julie Harrington said the sport must have rules and penalties that are “viewed as fair” to both participants and the betting public.

    “At a time when societal and political views are constantly changing, the future health of our sport will depend in part on the maintenance of social licence and the trust that the public and politicians have in us,” she said.

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