How the British Horseracing Authority’s “Integrity Review” aims to modernise its Integrity Unit
The British Horseracing Authority ("BHA"), the governing body that regulates British horse racing, recently underwent an Integrity Review, a report ("the Report") of the findings was published in March.1
This article draws out key parts from the Report, analyse those points and then consider what other sports organisations learn can learn from the BHA’s outcomes and process.2
Horse racing is a sport that exists solely for the purposes of betting. Therefore given the emphasis of betting on the sport the BHA has established policies and procedures to lessen the potential damage that can be caused by betting and competition manipulation. These policies and procedures need to be fit-for-purpose, taking into account the modern technological environment where the opportunities to communicate and bet are vast, as well as possible doping and other corrupt practices.
To combat corruption in horse racing the BHA had already established an Integrity which has been subject to review previously: Joint British Horseracing Board and Jockey Club Security Review Group Report in July 20033 and The British Horseracing Authority and Integrity in Horseracing - An Independent Review by Dame Elizabeth Neville in May 2008.4 As a result of those previous reviews, and continuing improvement since,
“The BHA is one of the few organisations internationally (including sports governing bodies, regulators and law enforcement) with the willingness and ability to investigate and prosecute betting-related corruption, and with a track record of bringing corruption cases to successful prosecutions.” [Background, para 8, page 11]
However, some of the stakeholders in the sport voiced concerns that they felt there was for improvement in the way the BHA Integrity Unit was currently functioning. On the 25 June 2015 an announcement was made that the BHA would conduct a review of its integrity work.5 The aims and objectives of the Integrity Review were to establish how the BHA would:
- Ensure the confidence and support of the industry.
- Develop a modern and contemporary approach.
- Improve efficiency and consistency of regulation, standards and prosecution process.
- Improve communication with stakeholders and wider public.
- Demonstrate greater openness.
- Show that they are in-tune, fair, accountable, open, aware and collaborative.
- Confirm their status as world leaders in this area.
- Ensure the BHA are robustly addressing current and future threats to the integrity of our sport, and making effective efforts to deter, disrupt, and investigate corrupt activity.
[Appendix B, Terms of Reference, section 2, page 37]
When a review of an organisation in any sector is undertaken, for whatever reason, it is considered best practice for this to be done entirely independently by an outside organisation. Examples of this in sport include an independent governance review of the International Cricket Council by Lord Woolf and PricewaterhouseCoopers (the global accountancy and consultancy firm) in 20126 and more recently in January 2016 an Independent Review Panel was announced in light of media allegations about match-fixing and corruption in tennis.7
However, for the BHA Integrity Review it was decided that it would be primarily performed by key relevant members of the BHA [Terms of Reference, Appendix B, pages 37 and 28] with the aid of a “Challenge Panel” to ensure the rigour and fairness of the review process and to challenge the direction of the Review, its findings and its recommendations.
The selection of the Challenge Panel members, and the work they undertook, is detailed in Appendices C [Challenge Panel Biographies, pages 39 and 40] and D [Challenge Panel Assurance Report, pages 41-45] of the Report. But, in brief, the Challenge Panel highlighted two specific areas:
- They felt strongly that the Scope of the review should be widened; and
- They also felt the composition of the Disciplinary Panels should be looked at as a key factor relevant to the “fairness” theme (prescient advice given the Jim Best situation described below).
Good practice is exhibited by the BHA, which adds to the credibility of the Review and the Report, by publishing in full in Appendix D the Assurance Report produced by the Challenge Panel containing its observations on the project as a whole. [para 10, page 13 & pages 41-45]
The author is of the opinion that there is no one right way for a governing body to carry out such a thorough review and the use of a Challenge Panel may be the way to balance independence and organisational knowledge which is appealing.
ADMISSION OF PAST SHORTCOMINGS
In the Foreword to the Report from the BHA’s new Chief Executive, Nick Rust, acknowledges that the BHA does note “always get it right". Nick goes on to state: "the Report includes two cases studies which we must learn from. I am particularly grateful to Kate Walton and Jim Boyle for allowing us to include their experiences, and I would like to add my sincere apologies to them both for falling short of the required standards during the investigations in which they were involved.” The admission that the governing body does not "always get it right" and that they have learnt from their mistakes is welcomed, particularly given the culture of many governing bodies that means they are unwilling to admit errors, failures or shortcomings.
Further details of Boyle and Walton case are provided on page 14 of the Report. In the case of Mr Boyle, the BHA admitted that the process took far too long and it should have communicated better and been more transparent. It regretted that a charge unique to integrity in horse sports “milkshaking”8 hung over him and was eventually not proved, which had a detrimental effect on his training business and his health. As for Ms Walton, the BHA apologised for charging her, publicising those charges and then withdrawing them prior to a hearing taking place.
This highlights the need for the BHA to investigate with the upmost thoroughness and have checks and balances in place. This includes, “identifying credible evidence enabling the investigation team to exclude somebody from its enquiries should be considered as much of a success as identifying credible evidence to support the bringing of disciplinary charges.”
OUTCOMES OF THE REPORT
The substantive part of the Report, containing the outcomes and recommendations (and supporting recommendations) of the Review Team (see "Independence and the Challenge Panel" below for more information), was set out in a number of reoccurring "themes", a summary of each is set out below.
The first area that received the Review Team’s attention was a perceived concern that the previous reviews above had, “not been sufficiently open, or publicised, and that the implementation of their recommendations does not appear (from an external perspective) to have been appropriately monitored or reported upon.” [Themes and Recommendations, para 1.1, page 15]
This led to the first recommendation (R1)9 that a Stakeholder Integrity Forum should be established with the purpose of:
- operating as an advisory group (i.e. it will have no executive function);
- providing a channel for preliminary high level consultation to ensure a good understanding of impacts of proposals/decisions;
- achieving buy-in from the sport for integrity initiatives and the BHA’s rationale behind those decisions;
- making the BHA Integrity department more effective and accountable; and
- providing visibility on the implementation of the recommendations set out in the Report.
[Themes and Recommendations, paras 1.3 to 1.5, page 15]
Although efforts to engage a broad range of stakeholders are generally to be welcomed, the author would just venture a word of caution to the BHA that in only being “advisory” in nature the Forum and its members must not feel like they are merely a discussion group with their views ultimately having little impact on the BHA’s integrity approach and policies going forward.
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- Tags: Arbitration | British Horseracing Authority (BHA) | Dispute Resolution | Governance | Horseracing | International Cricket Council (ICC) | Regulation | United Kingdom (UK)
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Kevin is a advisor and member of the editorial board for LawInSport, having previously acted as editor.
Kevin specialises in integrity, regulatory, governance and disciplinary matters. His expertise and knowledge has led him to be engaged by major private and public bodies, including the IOC, FIFA, the Council of Europe, INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as making regular appearances internationally delivering presentations and commenting in the media on sports law issues.
His research and papers are published across a variety of forums, including having a blog on LawInSport.