Survivors survey damage across the field as racing counts cost of
What should the average punter - the providers of racing's lifeblood
thanks to betting revenue - make of yesterday's news from the Old Bailey as
they cross the threshold of their local betting shop this morning? Should they
feel more or less confident about the integrity of racing?
One simple fact is that despite lurid
headlines and much anticipation, there proved to be no case to answer against
Kieren Fallon, the six-times champion jockey of Britain, or either Fergal Lynch
or Darren Williams. The idea that they were regularly riding to lose was thrown
out of court.
What should also be crystal clear is that the arrival of
Betfair in the betting market has offered an invaluable tool in the fight
against corruption. The fact that the betting records in this case contributed
to the defence rather than the prosecution - since the supposed conspirators
were actually out of pocket - does not detract from the fact that this
information is now readily available to regulators.
As has been the case for several years, they can
also see from brief reference to the Racing Post that the returns from backing
favourites are at a historically high level. If racing were fundamentally
corrupt, it is difficult, to say the least, to see how this could be the case.
The maintenance of racing's integrity, though, is an ongoing process,
and it is also fair to ask how attempts to undermine the sport in the future
will be investigated.
It is unlikely that any police force in the
country will be willing to undertake an investigation into the sport after the
ignorance and ineptitude of the City of London force was exposed with such
regularity at the Old Bailey.
It is also unlikely that a racing case
will ever be brought on a charge of "conspiracy to defraud", which is
notoriously difficult to prove even when there is worthwhile evidence, never
mind the sort of desperately weak case that the Old Bailey considered.
Instead, it will now fall to the new Gambling Commission to prosecute
serious, organised attempts to corrupt the sport. The new law against "cheating
at gambling" should, in theory, be easier to prosecute than conspiracy.
The racing authorities are well aware of this - indeed, it is they who
lobbied hard for such a law. Following the humiliating events in Court 12 at
the Old Bailey, however, it may be some time before they are willing to put it
to the test.
What it means for The jockeys For Kieren
Fallon, as it is for Darren Williams and Fergal Lynch, the most important
question following the collapse of their trial is when they can get their
careers back on track.
For Fallon in particular it cannot happen soon
enough, as he is now in his forties and, with due respect to Williams and
Lynch, has much more of a career to salvage.
Since he has an Irish
licence, and the British Horseracing Authority's ban on him riding in this
country lapsed as soon as the proceedings ended at the Old Bailey, Fallon could
theoretically ride on the all...#8209;weather next week.
need time to regain his racing weight and fitness, however, and may be more
likely to return to regular action in the new year. He must also consider
whether to take legal action against the BHA for pursuing what he may well
believe was a vendetta against him.
He will also hope to rebuild his
role as the No1 jockey for Aidan O'Brien, for whom he won the Prix de l'Arc de
Triomphe on Dylan Thomas in early October.
A statement from John
Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, the men behind O'Brien's Ballydoyle
yard, said yesterday that they "find it extremely sad that he was denied the
right to display his skills and earn a living on the racecourses of Britain
while this case was pending. A jockey's riding career is a short one and Fallon
was cruelly disadvantaged at the peak of his career."
The fact that the
statement read "was" disadvantaged, rather than "has been", is probably no more
than an inadvertent use of the past tense. It is hard to believe that Magnier,
the main man at Coolmore, would dispense with Fallon now having stood by him
for so long.
Nonetheless, even a jockey blessed with Fallon's natural
weight and fitness will take time to get back to the levels of mental and
physical sharpness required to ride multimillion-pound thoroughbreds in the
world's top races.
Williams and Lynch, meanwhile, must reapply for
their licences, and while they have been suspended - effectively on full pay,
thanks to the riders' insurance fund - for more than a year, this may not be a
formality. At the very least, both will have to answer questions about their
association with Miles Rodgers before they can ride again.
means for The BHA The question that should be taxing the BHA this morning
is not so much how it got into such a mess, but why. Over the last two years a
dozen licensed individuals, mostly jockeys, have been handed long suspensions
for either supplying inside information to gamblers, or deliberately riding to
lose. Evidence from the Betfair betting exchange has been crucial in all these
All the while, though, the criminal investigation by the City of
London police has been continuing, with betting evidence an important strand of
the case. The collapse of that case may now leave in question the validity of
such evidence not only in previous cases but in future ones too.
BHA did its best to distance itself from the police investigation yesterday,
but it became clear in court that the Jockey Club - as it then was - had asked
a series of police forces to launch an investigation before it finally
persuaded City of London police to become involved. Ben Gunn, a former
policeman who sits on the BHA board, and Paul Scotney, the BHA's head of
security, were key figures in this process. Both may be considering their
positions this morning.
Paul Struthers, the BHA's spokesman, insisted
yesterday that "at no point was any funding promised, at no point was any
funding agreed, and at no point was any funding paid" to persuade the police to
investigate. However, it was conceded in court that Scotney and Gunn met the
commissioner of City of London police a month before their investigation
started. If it becomes clear that funding for the operation was discussed in
any detail, the positions of all those concerned will be untenable. But there
are also several other decisions that the BHA must take.
withdraw its offer of employment to Mark Manning, the policeman in charge of
the investigation whose ignorance of racing and betting was so cruelly exposed
court? Should it take action against any or all of the jockeys involved over
their clear breaches of rules on inside information? Should it take action
against Lynch and Williams in particular over their associations with Rodgers,
who was a disqualified person at the time?
The remaining key question,
however, is not for the BHA to answer. It is whether the organisation still has
the ability - and the credibility - to regulate the sport in Britain.