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The Corruption of racing

"What we want is a method of making the bastards go away," wrote one racing journalist when commenting upon Panorama's six month investigation into horseracing.

Faced by an industry closing ranks, the BBC has had to fight two High Court actions to get this film broadcast. On 13 September the sport's governing body, the Jockey Club, lost its legal battle to stop Panorama from revealing some of its secret "corruption" files.

Already it is the most talked about documentary in the history of British horseracing. Panorama presents the story the racing world tried to bury.

"I wouldn't say it was bent. I would say it is institutionally corrupt."

Whatever phraseology he chooses to employ, Roger Buffham's remarkable verdict on horseracing cannot but have the most serious consequences for this 5 billion industry.

Decade of corruption

As Head of the Jockey Club's Security Department for nine years, Buffham (MBE) was in effect racing's chief policeman. Now he is about to become the sport's most celebrated "whistleblower" as he gives Panorama an exclusive insight into the mercurial world of the Turf.

A former bomb disposal expert and undercover agent in Northern Ireland, Buffham has shown Panorama secret files documenting over a decade of corruption in horse racing.

Much of it involves the activities of criminal Brian Wright, head of the most successful cocaine smuggling gang ever to have targeted Britain.

On the racecourse Wright was a prolific gambler, but many of his bets, as Buffham reveals, were guaranteed winners. For years Wright had a score of top jockeys on his payroll, some of whom were fixing races for him.

Among those bribed by Wright was the infamous "Needleman", a former champion amateur jockey who in 1993 admitted (in a disguised TV interview) to doping racehorses.

High profile

In his first ever "open" interview, Dermot Browne tells Panorama how he and other jockeys were offered cash, cocaine and prostitutes to fix races for Brian Wright.

Wright is now on the run, subject of an international arrest warrant. Panorama tracks him down to a coastal hideaway in Northern Cyprus.

The programme discovers an industry seemingly incapable and unwilling to purge itself of corruption.

Confronted in this programme are some of the most high profile figures in racing: former Gold Cup winning jockey Graham Bradley; the current champion jockey Kieren Fallon, and two leading trainers, among others.


At the heart of this compelling investigation is the story of one man versus the establishment. The Grandees of horseracing, the Jockey Club, have ruled racing for two hundred and fifty years.

They are the self-appointed "conscience of British horse racing". It is for them that Roger Buffham reserves his most scathing criticism.

The former employee paints a picture of an institution blinkered by old-school-tie-ism, incompetence, and collective cowardice. And he's hung on to his confidential internal documents to prove it.

Panorama: The Corruption of racing was shown on BBC One on Sunday 6 October at 2215BST

Production team:
Producer: Stephen Scott
Director: Gerry Troyna
Reporter: Andy Davies
Assistant Producer: Andrew Bell
Assistant Producer: Richard Grange
Editor: Mike Robinson

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The Investigation

The Court cases


The Jockey Club

Links to more Panorama stories are at the foot of the page.

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