13 December 2023

Updated Safeguarding and Human Welfare Strategy represents ‘watershed moment’ – BHA

13 December 2023

An updated Safeguarding and Human Welfare Strategy has been published by the British Horseracing Authority in what it described as a “watershed moment” for the sport.

Covering an initial four-year period, the BHA said the strategy “sets out immediate and longer-term objectives to ensure a safe, respectful, and enjoyable working environment for all, with the highest standards of behaviour and free from any kind of abuse”.

Since 2018, the BHA said it has received and investigated over 350 safeguarding and human welfare concerns – a high proportion of which relate to sexual misconduct, bullying and abusive conduct. Recent data shows a rise in the number of referrals concerning complex abuse cases, including serious sexual offences.

In 2021, Dr Eleanor Boden gave a talk at the Racing Foundation conference talk entitled ‘Where did all the girls go?’, detailing what were said to be incidences of unacceptable behaviour towards women in the sport.

BHA chair Joe Saumarez Smith said he “apologised unreservedly” on behalf of British racing to those who have experienced harm or unacceptable behaviour.

“We have long stated that ‘racing is everyone’s sport’, but the findings from Dr Boden’s report and the data and evidence underpinning the wider strategy demonstrate that this has not always been the case. Horseracing has at times fallen short and let people down,” he said.

“On behalf of British racing, I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has experienced harm and behaviour that is unacceptable. I also want to thank those who have shared their stories and provided powerful personal testimony. We are sorry and we will work determinedly to put this right.”

While the BHA acknowledged on a media call that the number of complaints is on the rise, it was stressed this could also be viewed as an increase in the levels of confidence participants have in the complaints procedure.

It was also pointed out that racing as a whole offered up more situations which leant itself to complaints with employees often traveling together, working overnight and with the workforce being comprised of a large proportion of young adults.

Rather than a reflection on racing, the rise in incidents is viewed more as a general societal issue. However, the BHA knows that the industry is not “immune”.

BHA chief executive Julie Harrington said: “Racing is not immune to problems like bullying and sexual misconduct, and I know that for women in particular, it has often been easier to keep your head down and suffer in silence. I am truly sorry to hear the stories of bullying, sexual misconduct and, in some cases, serious sexual abuse. This has no place in British racing or wider society.

“The onus is on everyone in our sport to put it right. I’m convinced that we have already started to see a cultural shift, where people feel more confident to speak up. This is difficult and takes immense courage, and we must create the environment where unacceptable conduct is called out and those who experience harm are empowered to come forward.”

She added: “Our updated Safeguarding and Human Welfare Strategy can build on and accelerate this work. It can be a watershed moment for our sport, where we collectively commit to the highest standards and take action when our shared values of tolerance and respect are abused.

“This is not only the right thing to do; it is critical if we are to recruit, retain and develop a happy, valued and high-performing workforce – and secure British racing’s sustainable, long-term future.”

:: Anyone who needs help, support or witnesses or experiences any unacceptable behaviour should report it to [email protected], or call the BHA’s confidential reporting service, RaceWISE on 08000 852 580.

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