The banishment from British and Irish sales of bribery-'luck money' or otherwise–of individuals acting for both sides on a sale without prior consent and of the practice of collusive bidding-up are the key themes of the updated Bloodstock Industry Code of Practice, which was released on Wednesday. The Code, which was drawn up in response to recommendations from the British Horseracing Authority's Review of the Buying and Selling of Bloodstock and Racehorses in British Racing released in December 2019, will be formally incorporated into the rules of British Racing on Aug. 16. As such, anyone found by the BHA to be in breach of the code, whether that individual is bound by the rules of racing or not, may be banned from British racecourses and other licensed premises as well as from doing business with licensed individuals. Tattersalls and Goffs have amended their terms and conditions of business to establish a right to ban any individual from their sales who has been found guilty-or anyone working on their behalf has been found guilty-of a criminal offence appearing to involve a breach of the code.
Breaches of the code may lead to civil and criminal liability; since the last code came into effect in 2009, bribery has been made a criminal offence in the UK, punishable with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The code applies to all British and Irish sales that take place after Aug. 16, and encompasses all participants whether they are on the sales grounds in Britain and Ireland or not.
The code states that bribery of agents-namely the paying by a vendor of 'luck money' as an incentive to purchase a particular horse, and thus resulting in the agent not necessarily acting in the best interest of their principal-“is a central concern to which the Code is directed.”
The code continues, “Participants should be clear that there can generally be no legitimate reason for an Agent of the purchaser to be rewarded in any way by the vendor and parties related to the vendor, and that the Agent of the purchaser should generally only be rewarded by their Principal, the purchaser.” In the case of bribery, both the individual receiving the bribe and the one giving it are at fault.
The code goes on to describe collusive bidding-up as “a serious abuse of the market.” Examples include a vendor coming to an agreement with one or more parties to bid on their horse without the intention to buy, thus driving up the price, and a vendor and purchaser entering into an agreement whereby the purchaser agrees to bid on the horse in exchange for a certain percent of the sale price if they buy the horse, giving them an unfair advantage over other bidders. Such practices are in breach of the code.
The Bloodstock Industry Code of Practice, which will be reviewed annually, was written and approved with the full support of the Bloodstock Industry Forum members: The British Horseracing Authority, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Horse Racing Ireland, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the Breeze-Up Consignors Association, the Federation of Bloodstock Agents, the National Trainers Federation, the Racehorse Owners Association, the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Goffs and Tattersalls.
The Bloodstock Industry Forum has likewise implemented a facility for participants with concerns that the code has been breached to obtain free initial legal advice from an independent lawyer, with initial legal fees to be paid by the Bloodstock Industry Forum.
Tattersalls Marketing Director Jimmy George, who chairs the Bloodstock Industry Forum, said, “It has been a long process, but in response to the BHA Review of the Buying and Selling of Racehorses and Bloodstock in Britain, the Bloodstock Industry Forum is delighted to have finalised a new, robust Bloodstock Industry Code of Practice which has been approved by all of the key British and Irish industry bodies as well as the British Horseracing Authority and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board. The new Code of Practice will be formally incorporated into the rules of British Racing and appear in all Tattersalls and Goffs sales catalogues, starting with the forthcoming Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale. It will also be widely disseminated and available through all BIF member organisations as well as being subject to regular review. Importantly the new Code of Practice has introduced a complaints procedure independent of the industry bodies and individuals found to be in breach of the Code, either in criminal or civil proceedings or having been sanctioned by the BHA for breach of the code, will also be subject to exclusion from participating at Tattersalls and Goffs sales in Britain and Ireland.
“The Bloodstock Industry Forum has also developed an 'E – learning' integrity module which will be adopted as part of the trainer licensing process in Britain as well as being mandatory for members of the Federation of Bloodstock Agents, while both Tattersalls and Goffs have committed to making full ownership details readily available to registered potential buyers as recommended in the review.”
“The commitment from each member of the Bloodstock Industry Forum to delivering a new Code of Practice has been unwavering and we are confident that we have produced a detailed, robust code, subject to regular review, which will stand the test of time,” George added. “We share a collective responsibility to preserve and enhance the global reputation for integrity which has always been central to the success of the British and Irish bloodstock industries and the new Code sends out the very clear message that we will do everything in our power to maintain and increase confidence in an industry which is held in the highest esteem throughout the world.”
BHA chief executive Julie Harrington said, “The BHA welcomes the publication of the Code of Practice, and the collaborative industry approach that has been taken to achieve this milestone. The Code of Practice has been approved by the BHA's Board and will be incorporated into the Rules of Racing. It will represent a significant step forwards in terms of enhancing trust in the process of buying and selling bloodstock in Britain and Ireland, and was one of the core recommendations of the Review of buying and selling practices of bloodstock and racehorses within British racing which was commissioned by the Board of the BHA.
“It is essential if we are to attract and retain owners in the sport that anyone involved in the purchase of bloodstock can have confidence that they are being treated fairly, and the Code will help further enhance British racing's reputation on this front.”
Goffs Group Chief Executive Henry Beeby added, “I am pleased that the British and Irish racing and bloodstock industries have come together to deliver one gold standard to enhance the buying and selling of bloodstock on these shores. From an auction house perspective we certainly insist on the same transparency and high standards of integrity at every sale we conduct regardless of location, and feel this new Code addresses all the issues raised in the BHA report.”
Horse Racing Ireland CEO Brian Kavanagh said, “Horse Racing Ireland and the IHRB welcome the new Code of Practice. We acknowledge the work and collaboration by the Bloodstock Industry Forum in drafting this document, and look forward to continuing our work with all stakeholders.”
Oliver St Lawrence, Chairman of the Federation of Bloodstock Agents, said, “Just like the other members of BIF, the FBA have embraced the principles of the BHA Bloodstock Review and have been heartened by the collaboration and willingness to address comprehensively the issues it highlighted. Together with a raft of other new measures, this upgraded Code should protect principals with a significant tightening up of the definition of acceptable ethical behaviour by all participants in the buying and selling of bloodstock and fully clarifies the law in the UK and Ireland. We at the FBA have tightened our membership requirements, which includes all members undertaking the new Bloodstock Education course, and are pleased to be endorsed by the BHA, and other BIF members, as an association which represents the highest standards of integrity and the recommended trade body that principals should look to use.”
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