THE British Horseracing Authority has apologised to anyone who “experienced unacceptable conduct” after revealing they have investigated more than 350 safeguarding and human welfare concerns since 2018.

Nearly half the reports have been concerned with either sexual misconduct or bullying.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has vowed to tackle the issue.

It has launched an updated strategy in what it described as a “watershed moment” for the sport.

“Racing is not immune to problems like bullying and sexual misconduct, and I know that for women in particular it has often been easier to keep your head down and suffer in silence,” said BHA chief executive Julie Harrington.

“I am truly sorry to hear the stories of bullying, sexual misconduct and, in some cases, serious sexual abuse. This has no place in British racing or wider society.

“The onus is on everyone in our sport to put it right. I’m convinced that we have already started to see a cultural shift, where people feel more confident to speak up.

“This is difficult and takes immense courage, and we must create the environment where unacceptable conduct is called out and those who experience harm are empowered to come forward.”


Among the 350-plus reports to the BHA under the heading of safeguarding in the past five years, 22% concerned bullying while 26% were for sexual misconduct. Of the latter, 41% were for sexual assault, rape or attempted rape. Precise numbers, and how many reports were proven, have not been revealed. There are 14 cases of interim suspensions of licensed individuals pending either criminal or safeguarding panel investigations.

Harrington’s comments coincided with the publication of an updated BHA strategy as well as PhD research into gender inequalities in racing by Durham University’s Dr Eleanor Boden.

Her study, which was part-funded by the Racing Foundation, looked at the personal experiences of 140 women employed in the industry and the findings suggested that:

  • Sexual misconduct and gender stereotypes can remain unchallenged or be accepted as ‘banter’
  • Attitudes towards pregnancy and motherhood can be an obstacle to career development, especially in more horse-facing roles
  • Some young women have felt the need to leave the industry because they don’t believe they belong or will have the opportunity to reach their potential
  • Unacceptable behaviour

    BHA chair Joe Saumarez Smith said he “apologised unreservedly” on behalf of British racing to those who have experienced harm or unacceptable behaviour.

    “We have long stated that ‘racing is everyone’s sport’, but the findings from Dr Boden’s report and the data and evidence underpinning the wider strategy demonstrate that this has not always been the case,” he said.

    “Horse racing has at times fallen short and let people down.

    “We are sorry and we will work determinedly to put this right.”

    The BHA says its strategy “sets out immediate and longer-term objectives to ensure a safe, respectful, and enjoyable working environment for all, with the highest standards of behaviour and free from any kind of abuse”.

    BHA Safeguarding Report Main Points

  • Enhanced safeguarding and human welfare education for industry leaders, employers and employees, with specific training around sexual abuse and misconduct.
  • Refining reporting mechanisms, simplifying existing referral processes and ensuring appropriate support for those reporting allegations
  • Improving management of concerns so that cases are dealt with effectively, in a sensitive, timely manner and in accordance with regulatory best practice
  • Creating a network of ‘Respect in Racing champions’ - role models who can help influence, inform, support and provide confidential advice to others
  • An industry-wide awareness campaign to improve understanding of what sexual misconduct is, why it is unacceptable and what to do if it occurs
  • Using the latest data and research most effectively to identify, better understand and respond to emerging risks and trends. This includes further research to explore the lived experience of people working in British racing.