Protecting Racing's Integrity


BBC journalist and conference moderator Mr. David Eades introduced a lively Plenary Session 4, entitled Protecting Racing's Integrity, on Thursday morning at the 38th Asian Racing Conference (ARC) in Cape Town, South Africa.

Mr. Eades set the tone for the session as he quoted British writer C.S. Lewis who said “integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching” before noting that that it was virtually impossible these days for nobody to be watching and that racing’s “watching” regulators had to ensure the integrity of the sport.

“A lack of integrity means loss of trust,” Mr. Eades said before outlining that racing’s traditionally robust stewarding now had to be supplemented by broader measures including integrity departments; the monitoring of betting markets; general surveillance and pre and post-race testing.

Professor Jack Anderson, Asian Racing Federation (ARF) Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce Member, and Director of Sports Law, University of Melbourne, was the first of five presenters and immediately captured the attention of a packed auditorium as he explored the psychology of cheating. He said it was important for regulators to attempt to understand why people cheated: “Interestingly, we rarely hear why the guilty party transgressed; rarely hear about the motive. You can say it’s simply money or glory or fame, but if you dig down it’s often slightly more complicated than that and it is important to understand motives to be better equipped to deal with it (cheating) in future.” He called illegal betting “a fraud on all aspects of sport.”

Both Professor Anderson and Mr. Brett Clothier, Head of the Athletics Integrity Unit and a former racing regulator, acknowledged that racing and sport would always deal with those who assessed the chance of getting caught and penalties versus the possible benefits to be gained by cheating.

“If enforcement isn’t strong enough it will inevitably lead to the crazy situation where cheating becomes normalised,” said Mr. Clothier who formerly was Head of Competition Integrity for the Australian Football League (AFL) and Legal Counsel to the Integrity Services Department of Racing Victoria.

“I learned a lot from racing integrity and the inspiration for integrity units in many sports came directly from racing, but racing can also learn from the rest of world sport. An important part of reform now isn’t just an anti-doping focus (most prevalent in athletics), but also on manipulation of results, bribery and corruption, betting, age manipulation and transfers of allegiance and key for us was to invest in our intelligence and investigations resources which would also apply to racing,” he said.

Mr. Clothier, like Professor Anderson, also noted that education was an important tool and touched on motive. “Investigation has to uncover the story and networks behind cases to deliver real change in the sport; and to bring a sustainable quality and quantity of high-level cases in a cost-effective manner. We need to look at why it happened and who was behind it.”

Ms. Annamarie Phelps, Chair of the British Horseracing Authority and Vice-Chair of the British Olympic Association, spoke of confidence being maintained for competitors, fans and punters alike. Results have to be unpredictable; the outcome has to be unknown, whether you’re competing or a fan or a punter you have to know that it’s worth a shot at the outsider,” she said before describing racing as “more than a way of life; it brings generations together; it’s a movement which crosses borders and socio-economic groups.”

Ms. Phelps, a former Olympic rower, contended she had faith in racing’s integrity services as did subsequent speakers Mr. Leo Schlink and Mr. Ray Murrihy. She said: “Where money’s involved there’s always someone looking to gain an advantage, but I don’t believe it (cheating) is any worse in racing than any other sport. The industry as a whole has to work collaboratively to prevent corruption. The tone and culture are set at the top of every organisation and we cannot rest on our laurels.

“We must ensure that governments recognise the value of the sport to the community, maintain the broad social acceptance of racing and know that public and political trust is imperative. Further we must acknowledge that integrity is not just about betting, but also issues such as the welfare of horses and people.”

Mr. Murrihy, former Chairman of Stewards at Racing NSW and experienced Integrity Consultant, and Mr. Schlink, Sports Journalist, Herald Sun (Melbourne), explored the relationship between media and regulators in reporting on racing’s integrity matters.
Mr. Murrihy said: “The competing interests are simple, the journalist wants a story, but sometimes the regulator doesn’t want an investigation blown, but generally there are good working relationships. It is not healthy if we try to filter and sanitise the news and we can’t expect journalists to be cheerleaders, nor should we bring pressure to bear for journalists to be apologists for our shortcomings.”

He has “a lot of confidence in the control and conduct of racing” and acknowledged that there were occasions when media publicity assisted in advancing investigations. “In summary, it is important we do have a good rapport and trust with journalists.”
Mr. Schlink, who has broken several of the major integrity-related stories in his home state, pointed out that the proliferation of new media had altered the landscape, but that trust, transparency and mutual respect between journalists and regulators remained vital. “Media once referred to newspapers, radio and television, but today it is virtually boundless as websites and podcasts proliferate. In racing, media shapes the perception of participants, but now with new media many of the individuals posting are not regulated, have no filters and no responsibility. Journalists can assist in reinforcing the message of integrity even if the rush to be first with the news on new media builds pressure on regulators.” He added that, from his professional experience, participant confidence in the Victorian racing industry had been significantly reinvigorated following recent and successful prosecutions.

For more information on the 38th ARC, visit www.arcsa2020.com