Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Praise for the BHA; sympathy for the IHRB

From saying on Monday that I didn't really feel that it behoved me to add to the verbal deluge prompted by Elliottgate, I'm going to end up writing two chapters on the subject in less than 48 hours.  I put up the couple of paragraphs early on Monday evening and was very pleased to find out shortly afterwards that the BHA had taken the bull by the horns and had wisely issued a statement saying that Gordon Elliott would not be able to have runners in Great Britain pro tem.  I'm writing this chapter to salute them for this, and also to make a point which I fear some people haven't grasped.

Basically, the BHA and the IHRB are in very different situations.  The BHA has the easy job.  The IHRB has the job of administering justice.  Gordon Elliott is licensed by the IHRB and the photograph was taken in Ireland on premises licensed by the IHRB.  It is clearly the IHRB's responsibility to discipline Elliott, using the rules to dispense justice and to apply a punishment appropriate to the offence for which the miscreant is found guilty.  With the BHA it is a very different story.  This is not a matter under British jurisdiction.  The BHA has no disciplinary role in this matter; it does not have to impose any punishment, does not have to administer justice.  All it has to do is care for the health of British racing, and it only becomes involved in an overseas case if it has consequences which might harm British racing..

The BHA's job is easy because there was no real decision to take.  Allowing Gordon Elliott to have runners at Cheltenham, bearing in mind that the national media and large sections of the British public view the Cheltenham Festival as a potential source of sticks with which to beat racing, would without any doubt whatsoever be detrimental the wellbeing of British racing.  The BHA was correct to do what it did, and it did well to act so swiftly - not least from the point of view of the owners of potential Cheltenham runners in Elliott's stable, who have promptly been given the clarity which they needed if they were in any doubt as to what they should do with their intended Cheltenham runners in the immediate future.

For the Irish authorities it is a very different matter.  How would you handle this, were you in their shoes?  How would I handle this?  I don't know.  But I do know that I can understand why the Irish authorities are dragging their feet, having said that they won't even open the enquiry until Friday and having given no indication what, if anything, they are going to charge Gordon Elliott with.  It's so hard to know what to do.  Basically, how should you punish a trainer for acting like an uncouth, uncaring yob?  Is being a bogan reason enough to suspend a trainer?  It's hard to answer 'Yes' to that latter question.  And this is not a welfare issue - the horse to whom he acted so disrespectfully and by whose death he was seemingly so unmoved, was already dead, and there is no suggestion of any horse in Elliott's stable receiving anything other than very good care.

Furthermore, one could argue that he hasn't even brought the sport into disrepute.  The person who did that was the copyright holder of the picture who initiated its distribution, ie the person who took the photograph.  And be in no doubt that that person has brought the sport into disrepute.  Exposing the callousness of a trainer does not merely bring that one trainer into disrepute, but it prompts (if the trainer is famous enough, as is the case here) large sections of the public to believe that we are all that uncaring of our charges.

That damages all of us, and brings the whole sport into (undeserved) disrepute.  The person responsible for this attempt to discredit Gordon Elliott which has actually discredited the entire sport (and I'm working on the assumption that the intention was to discredit Elliott and that damaging the sport has been an unintended consequence) arguably deserves at least as stiff a penalty as Elliott.  The IHRB has yet to announce when this person will appear before them, whether it will be at Friday's hearing or at some unspecified point in the future, but no doubt all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

By the way, I've never owned or looked at an Irish rule-book, but I'm reasonably familiar with the British one and can generally navigate my way around it.  As I say, technically it would be easy to argue that the person who took and distributed the photograph is the person who has brought racing into disrepute, rather than Elliott, but the British rule-book provides a perfect route by which to prosecute him, were this happening in Britain.  Part 4 (A)30.1: "... must not act in a manner ... prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct of good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain."  He is definitely guilty of acting in such a manner.  What is a fair penalty for that?  I just don't know.  The BHA can indeed thank its lucky stars that it doesn't have to sort out this sorry mess; and we can thank our lucky stars that it has acted swiftly to head off the massive damage which would have been done to the reputation of and to public faith in British racing had Gordon Elliott shown up with runners at the Cheltenham Festival.  Good on 'em.


neil kearns said...

Evening few of comments about this terrible turn of events
Firstly totally agree with you that the photographer is the cause of the problem in releasing the thing to social media , however Elliott allowed himself to be photographed so he has to be equally culpable .
Secondly whilst i totally understand the clamour for the BHB to act whatever happened to the principal of innocent until proven ? Surely they should wait for the IHRB to act ? And if not why hasn't Rob James been suspended from British racing (and using the Covid rules as an excuse isn't an option)?
Finally i fail to see what punishment can actually satisfy the hounds yapping at the door short of depriving Elliott of his livelihood for life and I for one don't see that is fair and reasonable
In conclusion Elliott's behaviour cannot in any way he condoned , it is a mess and there is no easy answer but the authorities have to be very wary into what reasoning (rule)they use to justify any punishment meted out because some of their biggest supporters are guilty of many very dubious practices in the wider world and could easily be deemed to be guilty of similar offences

The Laird said...

Rob James is an amateur.

Arthur said...

Ah yes, punish the whistleblower. That'll go down well. Dear oh dear.

Unknown said...

Should be banned as a racehorse trainer , imagine how the owners n the groom feel about this disrespectful act of no concern or anything for that matter . I sure would,nt have him training my horse never mind looking after in any shape or form . I'd like to be wrong imagining whatever else occurs within the yard or other .