Corruption must be driven out of horse racing

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The Independent Online

Yesterday's arrest of 16 men by police investigating alleged race fixing is a welcome sign that the horse-racing authorities have woken up to the corruption at the heart of the sport and are finally doing something about it. We are some way from the presentation of any evidence, but we know that more than 80 races over the past two years are suspected of being rigged.

Yesterday's arrest of 16 men by police investigating alleged race fixing is a welcome sign that the horse-racing authorities have woken up to the corruption at the heart of the sport and are finally doing something about it. We are some way from the presentation of any evidence, but we know that more than 80 races over the past two years are suspected of being rigged.

The rise of internet betting exchanges is behind the alleged increase in race fixing. Unlike traditional betting shops, these online exchanges enable punters to bet against horses winning. The suspicion is that this has tempted some jockeys and trainers to place bets against themselves online and then deliberately lose races.

The methods of cheating are becoming increasingly sophisticated. But so are the methods of targeting those involved in corruption. As internet exchanges point out, bank account details of all those who have made bets are stored and accessible to the authorities. Exchanges also provide a record of suspicious betting patterns. The irony is that, as well as making it easier to cheat, the exchanges make it harder for miscreants to get away with it.

The Jockey Club, the racing regulator, deserves credit for successfully co-operating with the betting exchanges and the police in this affair. And by banning jockeys using mobile phones on the racecourse it has sent out a message that dodgy practices will not be tolerated. But there is no room for complacency. The regulator is still stained by accusations made in a BBC investigation two years ago that it lacks the "moral courage" to deal with corruption, and lingering suspicions that it is too close to those it polices. The public has to be assured that cheats will not always be one step ahead of the authorities.

It is to be hoped that these investigations will help to restore confidence in the integrity of horse racing. Punters spend some £12bn each year, and have a right to expect that they are watching fair races. Unless corruption is seen to be driven out of the sport, the horse-racing industry might wake up one day to discover that all bets are off.

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