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Steve Jones: “Now is the time for the BHA to clamp down on online abuse”

December 17, 2021

THE shockwaves in the fallout from the Bryony Frost/Robbie Dunne inquiry will be felt throughout racing for many months.

It has been an hugely uncomfortable few weeks but hopefully positive change will come out of one of the most publicly unpleasant episodes in the sport’s history.

Throughout the process, the BHA has been clear that any hint of bullying in any corner of racing would not be tolerated. Quite right too.

Now racing’s rulers must show they mean it. If they are committed to protecting the sport’s participants from bullying and abusive behaviour they need to tackle the most visible form of this destructive conduct.

There will barely be a jockey or trainer that hasn’t been targeted with the most disgusting post-race comments, be it by text, email or social media.

In a sport where, even for the best, defeat is a far more regular visitor than victory, it is a brutal blow. Even the most resilient would waver under the bombardment of such vile abuse.

Messages wishing cancer on trainers, broken legs and necks on jockeys and death on horses arrive in inboxes at regular intervals.

Once or twice would be bad enough but it is an unwelcome daily bombardment for many riders.

This cannot be tolerated and it is something the BHA needs to do everything in its power to stamp out. This kind of, often anonymous, abuse is clearly illegal.

If racing officials do not, understandably, have the skills or wherewithal to tackle this problem then there needs to be a collaboration with the police to stamp out what is a real threat to the mental and even physical wellbeing of the very people who are at the heart of horseracing.

If money is in any way stopping this festering sore from being lanced then funding needs to be found and quickly.

It’s hard to imagine the perpetrators would be hard to find with the kind of hi-tech equipment now available.

Those spitting the venom hardly come across as candidates for Mastermind so it shouldn’t take the powers of Sherlock Holmes to track them down to their lairs. It’s easy to imagine those lairs resemble the box room at their mum’s house but the truth is these people could come from all corners of society.

It’s rather flippant to dismiss these, often serial offenders, as saddos. They might have a warped sense of what is an acceptable response to the result of a horse race but it be wrong to pigeon hole them as oddballs.

They are criminals and their behaviour is against the laws of the land. And those laws need to be enforced to protect the sportsmen and women that help make racing so great.