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   Friday, 4 October, 2002, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Cornelius Lysaght
The BBC's racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght was on hand to answer your e-mails on the Panorama Jockey Club expose.

Tim Stuart, UK

As fans/punters, we need to know that the races we see in front of us are for real. As far as I'm aware, most of the issues in the programme are already being dealt with. Can you tell me more about this?

Cornelius Lysaght: There is an element of things already being dealt with. Certainly the Jockey Club wasn't prepared to talk in the Panorama programme about the jockey Graham Bradley because his alleged conduct is subject to a disciplinary hearing next month.

However, the allegation of the programme was that even if things are being done, they are being too slow. Even if they are competent regulators they are too slow to act and that is one of the areas in which the Jockey Club were particularly pulled up about.

There is also the suggestion that some things are just too uncomfortable and instead of addressing them, it's far easier to just sweep them under the carpet.

But it's very important that punters going into their local betting shop can be sure of the integrity of racing. I think if you are going to have a bet on a horse today you can be quite sure that the sport is as clean as it possibly can be. But just as in every walk of life there is an element of sleaze, and of course horseracing attracts extra attention due its caricature.

Marc Dando, England

As this sort of corruption would not be tolerated in any other sport, i.e. cricket, why do you think that nobody has received a life ban from racing?

CL: I think that the racing regulators would argue that racing is cleaner than one or two other areas. He's quite right that some cricketers have been banned for considerable lengths of time. But as far as the Jockey Club in Britain is concerned it has to act with the help of pretty detailed evidence. And its argument is that it doesn't have enough power and it is lobbying for extra powers at the moment.

As for life bans the fact is that there are pending proceedings against the characters that appeared in the Panorama programme who could conceivably receive life bans. I think the argument here is that perhaps the Jockey Club wasn't as strong in the past as it should have been, and it is improving things now.

D Rowley, UK

Having read your piece on the site today I have to take issue with your claim that the Jockey Club should be given more powers. The club is comprised of an unelected, self-perpetuating, secretive body comprising people with vested interests. It is time a new body or the Horseracing Board be given these powers and the jockey club consigned to history.

CL: He makes a very fair point. I think to give the British Racing Board any more powers would be lunacy. To be honest the board hasn't covered itself in glory in terms of what it was set up to do. It may well be that ultimately something along those sorts of lines appears.

I think he makes a fair point in terms of vested interest. The situation at the moment is that you can be a steward of the Jockey Club and a racehorse owner. Clearly there is a difficult area there - to be participating in the sport you are also regulating.

I think ultimately these things are always being looked at and if the Jockey Club isn't given more power the alternative is to set up a separate regulatory body from the club. So you'd have a regulator and the Jockey Club, which still acts as a club.

But I smell a whiff here of stereotyping appearing here about what the Jockey Club is all about. It is unelected and it is self-perpetuating but to a large extent its officials even if not elected they are appointed and they are competent people and within the sport there is a remarkably small amount of dissent about their ability to regulate.

This sort of thing of port and cigars and double-barrelled names and titles certainly existed at the club once upon a time, but it's certainly not the case today. It may not be the case that they are made up of the back streets of our great industrial cities, but having said that they are not just all the landed gentry, which I think is the perception.

Simon Jackson, UK

With the Jockey Club apparently not contesting any of the actual evidence presented in the Panorama programme, did the organisation not do themselves irreparable damage by closing ranks and trying to hamper the programme makers at every turn?

CL: I think they have challenged a large number of the points made in the programme. And to be fair to Christopher Foster, who is the executive director of the club, about 80% of the claims against the club he countered reasonably well. The Jockey Club has come out fighting this morning.

The Jockey Clubs big problem up until Sunday night was that it wasn't able to see the programme and had to guess what claims were being made. Now they have seen the programme they have come out and made their counter-claims and have said they will do as much as they can to improve things in the future.

David Young, UK

In what ways do you believe the integrity of the Jockey Club could be improved?

CL: I think it needs to be more open. It's not just a case of the Jockey Club being open it's the whole of racing. It's considerably more open then it was fifteen years ago, when I first became involved with professional racing.

It's ludicrous that people within this tight-knit community should be able to put a sign up on their door saying 'keep out' to people from outside the community, which does still continue to happen. And as long as that continues things will not improve.

I'm not referring to the Jockey Club exclusively here. As far as the Jockey Club is concerned it insists that it does a good job and is continually looking at itself. Well it must continue to look at itself and it may well be that this regulatory side needs to become more separate than the club side of things.

Kevin Quinn, England

I'd like to ask the racing press to be more inquisitive about the game. At the moment it takes an outsider to shed light on the sport. The racing press seems too keen to accept its role as the lyricists of the sport and not as one of its guardians - do you agree?

CL: It's impossible to say that Kevin is wrong there. The racing media although critical is not cut throat in the same way that the tabloid press can be about things generally. Having said that I think if you looked at other sports, I think the same kind of thing goes on. I think there's an inevitability when the world is so small that people fear that grudges may be held, therefore people are less inclined to be critical.

However, I feel the press is becoming increasingly tough and will no doubt become even more so in light of these allegations.

Tom Maxwell, England

How difficult is it for someone in your position to report on these allegations, whilst still reporting on the sport itself? Do you fear reprisals from those involved?

CL: Quite simply no. A number of people have asked me that, but if you are asking me if the BBC is unwelcome, the answer is of course it's not. The BBC is enormous and we are doing a quite different job than the makers of the Panorama programme.

I have been unable to contact a couple of the people in the programme but I would like to think that they would be happy to talk to me, a journalist that they know, rather than the makers of Panorama.

There's been no animosity at all and I think it's true of all walks in life that people would prefer to talk to people that they know. One jockey Michael Kinane is willing to talk to the BBC and the Jockey Club no doubt is well aware that if it is to make its case, it will need to use wide reaching media like the BBC.

Harry Rugg, London

Do you think the programme will deter many people from having a bet on horse racing?

CL: No, is the answer. I think quite a lot of people believe there is something dodgy involved in racing anyway. People love a whiff of scandal and that's part of the reason why this particular programme has received so much publicity. I think the other thing is that so many people having a bet are much more interested in their chance of quadrupling their money on a 1-4 chance, then worrying about whether things are going badly.

The other thing is that there are many, many thousands of races taking place around the country throughout the year and the programme highlighted incidents taking place in a small minority of cases. Therefore people can be as certain as they can be that the sport is not as dirty as was portrayed in Panorama.

 Cornelius Lysaght
Answers your e-mails
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