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PJA calls for end to BHA investigation into Frost-Dunne case

The Professional Jockeys Association has called on the British Horseracing Authority to “bring to an end” its investigation into Bryony Frost’s allegations against fellow rider Robbie Dunne – because it believes a fair hearing has become impossible.

Documents were leaked to a newspaper, and published over the past two weeks, and the PJA believes the matter therefore cannot now proceed “however unsatisfactory that is”.

In the leaked documents, it emerged Dunne had been charged with  “conduct prejudicial to the integrity or good reputation” of racing. Days later, it was revealed a second complaint was made by a female rider to the BHA over a safeguarding incident involving a male jockey.

An investigation has been ongoing for more than a year – a length of time which the PJA also called “unacceptable”, adding that its members are “upset” because of the negative headlines created around their weighing-room culture.

The statement read: “The PJA has a policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations and has such a policy out of fairness, respect to the process and to natural justice being allowed to be served without prejudice. The PJA cannot therefore comment on the case specific details but must comment on the current, deeply concerning situation.

“The BHA has been aware of a potential data breach in relation to the leaked documents since August, and reported itself at that time to the Information Commissioners Office. It is vital that the investigation into the data breach is concluded as a matter of urgency, the cause of the data breach identified and anyone involved held to account for the distress caused.

“The length of time taken in bringing this case to a conclusion is unacceptable.  Now that material has been leaked to the media, and the information leaked is the charge letter and accompanying documentation that should only have been available to the BHA, Robbie Dunne and his legal advisers, a fair hearing is impossible. The matter cannot now be permitted to proceed – and we call upon the BHA to bring this matter to an end, however unsatisfactory that is.

“The PJA is aware that its membership is upset by the negative headlines about the culture in the weighing room that have been circulating this past week. The PJA understands and sympathises with their frustration, particularly from those female jockeys who have contacted us. We are grateful to them for respecting the process that must be allowed to conclude.

“The PJA published a Code of Conduct in May, which was the first of its kind in racing.  We expect our members to abide by this code.  We want to ensure that our sport welcomes everyone and we agree that people need to be held to account against a set of rules and codes of expected behaviour.

“We do not, however, accept the explicit and implied criticism of our membership as laid out in recent articles. The PJA does accept that there are ‘heat of the moment’ exchanges, not uncommon in sport, that are quickly resolved – and there may also be occasions when behaviours do fall short of the PJA’s Code of Conduct and the Rules of Racing.”

Bryony Frost in action on course with Frodon at Cheltenham
Bryony Frost in action on course with Frodon at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Paul Struthers, PJA Chief Executive, said: “Any individual subjected to behaviour that might constitute a breach of the Rules of Racing or the PJA’s Code Conduct must have the right to pursue a complaint, and that right must be respected. The PJA has no toleration of bullying and does not, and will not, stand idly by when it becomes aware of such conduct.

“When serious allegations are made it is vital that they are investigated thoroughly and speedily. Equally, an individual investigated for potential offences under the Rules of Racing is entitled to be subjected to a fair process and have a fair hearing.

“It is surely now impossible for that to happen in this case, however unsatisfactory that is for both parties.”

PA Media has sought a response from the BHA.

PJA welcomes concussion report

The Professional Jockeys Association has welcomed the publication of a Government report into concussion in sport.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced an inquiry in March of this year to consider links between sport and long-term brain injury, the implications for youth sport and funding for further scientific research.

The inquiry also considered the role of national governing bodies and major sporting organisations, with submissions invited and further evidence and testimony obtained through four oral evidence sessions.

The final ‘Concussion in Sport’ report was released on Thursday morning, with the DCMS committee making a number of key recommendations, including the development of a UK-wide minimum standard definition of concussion to be used across all sport.

The Health and Safety Executive have been told to work with sports governing bodies to set up a new reporting framework for sports injury by July 2022, with sports required to report any event that might lead to an acquired brain injury within a year of that.

The PJA’s chief executive, Paul Struthers, appeared before the committee at one of the oral evidence sessions, and said: “We very much welcome the DCMS inquiry and the recommendations that have been published in their ‘Concussion in Sport’ report today.

“Their recommendations to establish a UK-wide minimum standard definition for concussion that all sports must use and adapt for their sport, a UK wide minimum standard protocol for concussion, a national framework for the reporting of sporting injuries and a single research fund that will coordinate and fund research are particularly important.

“We have been fortunate that racing has been ahead of the game in many ways, thanks to the work of the British Horseracing Authority and its predecessors, and especially racing’s former Chief Medical Adviser Dr Michael Turner and his successor Dr Jerry Hill.

“However, it is vital that we continue to work closely with the BHA and Dr Hill to ensure racing’s protocols, support, education, advice and aftercare continue to be fit for purpose and serve to protect our members as much as possible.

“We also look forward to working with government, Professional Players Federation members and other stakeholders to ensure these recommendations are implemented.”