Consultation opens regarding British racing’s whip rules and penalties

  • Initial phase of consultation – an online questionnaire – opens today, 1 July, and will run for 10 weeks
  • Further phases of the consultation will include detailed discussions with relevant individuals, alongside focus groups with volunteers
  • Series of short videos to explain consultation process and existing whip rules and usage also launched today

An open, public consultation has been opened today by the BHA on the use of the whip in British racing.

The whip used in British racing is foam-padded and was designed with input from the RSPCA, and its use in races is subject to strict controls. The consultation aims to gather and assess the views of industry participants, stakeholders and wider audiences regarding the rules, use, and penalties for rule breaches.

The consultation was a recommendation of the industry’s independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board (HWB), which was asked to consider the whip as part of its five-year strategic plan for the welfare of horses bred for racing: “A Life Well Lived”.

The first part of the consultation takes the form of an online questionnaire, which can be accessed here and will run for 10 weeks until 6 September.

A Q&A document regarding to the consultation can also be accessed here.

The questionnaire allows anyone with an interest in the subject to provide responses to a number of set questions related to whip rules and penalties, as well as the opportunity to provide more detailed, freeform suggestions or comments. Respondents will have the opportunity to respond either as individuals and/or to submit the views of collective groups, organisations or bodies.

Respondents will be asked to consider what the rules should allow in terms of permissible use, whether the existing penalty framework provides sufficient deterrent to prevent rule breaches, whether disqualification should be considered as a penalty for rule breaches, whether international rules should be harmonised and whether engagement with the sport would change if the whip rules were changed.

The second part of the consultation will involve detailed discussions with relevant parties, and focus groups with volunteers who put themselves forward as part of the consultation. These focus groups will take place during the consultation period.

Following the conclusion of the full consultation process, the data, views and suggestions from all parts of the consultation will be considered by the Whip Consultation Steering Group, which contains representation and expertise from across the racing industry and wider sectors including politics, horse welfare and the media. Recommendations will then be determined by the Steering Group and undergo further engagement prior to being presented to the BHA Board for consideration and approval in early 2022

Should there be any changes to rules or penalties there would then follow an extensive bedding in and training period ahead of their implementation.

To coincide with the opening of the consultation, the BHA has today published three short explanatory videos alongside a selection of infographics. These assets are integrated into the consultation web page and intend to provide objective factual explanations around core aspects of the consultation, the whip itself and existing rules, including:

Julie Harrington, Chief Executive of the BHA, said:

“At a time when societal and political views are constantly changing, the future health of our sport will depend in part on the maintenance of social licence and the trust that the public and politicians have in us. The racing industry must be willing to listen to and understand a range of perspectives if it is to prosper and safeguard its long-term future.

“Moreover, we must have rules and a penalty structure which are viewed as fair to participants and the betting public, which encourage riding within the rules and which deter rule breaches.

“By carrying out this consultation we are looking to signal and facilitate a positive, open debate about this important issue for our sport from the viewpoint of perception and fairness. We encourage everyone with an interest in the subject to take part in the consultation. This is your opportunity to be heard.”

Brant Dunshea, Chief Regulatory Officer for the BHA, said:

“The consultation process will be open and transparent, and the views of all parties are welcome and will be considered. The decisions that result from this process are then racing’s to make, guided by the consultation responses and the significant expertise that exists within the Steering Group.

“We encourage all respondents to make use of the supporting information in the consultation, which explains the current design of the whip, and the rules and penalties relating to its use, to ensure that anyone responding to the consultation is informed by the facts.

“This is a complex issue and not a binary one. The consultation will cover a broad range of ground regarding the use of the whip for encouragement, the rules under which the padded whips are used for this specific purpose, and the penalties for breaches of those rules.

“We ask everyone involved to take part in this debate constructively and respectfully.”