Irish Jockeys Association call for arbitration processes to be set up to resolve disputes

Ruby Walsh rejects suggestions of a ‘rancid’ culture in the weigh-room

The body representing Ireland’s professional jockeys has urged racing authorities on both sides of the Irish Sea to set up arbitration processes for helping riders to resolve disputes.

The Irish Jockeys Association (IJA) said such an internal facility should be put in place “at the very minimum” on the back of the fall-out from Robbie Dunne’s 18-month suspension by the British Horseracing Authority for bullying and harassing Bryony Frost.

With Britain’s Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) at loggerheads with the BHA, labelling it “an absolute disgrace” in relation to the process and some comments about a weigh-room culture, the IJA has said there are no winners from the Frost-Dunne case.

"Bryony is not a winner. Robbie Dunne is not a winner. And particularly racing, and the weigh-room, are not winners," the IJA secretary, Andrew Coonan, said on Friday.


“That is probably for me the greatest failing in all of this, that nothing was in place to ensure this sort of situation was not played out in public.

“I’m not commenting on the rights or wrongs of it. But in any corporate [situation] where there is a workplace dispute, there are procedures in place to address their concerns and have those issues addressed. That never seemed to have come into the equation for either party here in this situation.

“I think if we have to learn anything from this, it is that at the very minimum that facility should be there, a procedure that all parties can know and understand and are aware is available to them,” added the former amateur jockey, who is now a solicitor.

Coonan described a “very good and close bond” within the weigh-room in Ireland and said he was unaware of any problem here similar to the one that has dominated headlines in Britain. However, he said only a fool would rule out the possibility occurring.

“No one should ever be complacent that it couldn’t arise in the future. We need to have learned from this and done something about it and put measures in place to try and ensure that a) a rider knows there is a procedure in place that is there to protect him or her and b) that they have recourse to it,” he said.

“Again, I’d come back to the point that I’d like to think that this is something that could have been resolved at an early stage.

“An arbitration process – I’ve got a complaint about a colleague at work, I’m not satisfied with the way he is behaving towards me or whatever – and there are procedures internally that can do it.

“Maybe that’s within the PJA, maybe that’s within the IJA, and maybe that can be brought to the next level without it necessarily having to be played out in the public domain, because that is good for neither party, neither the injured party nor the protagonist, and it’s certainly not good for racing,” Coonan commented.

On Friday Ruby Walsh rejected suggestions of a "rancid" culture in the weigh-room.

Speaking on ITV, the former champion jockey said: “That said, you have a room full of competitors and rivals. They’re not all friends, nor should they be. But they represent the image of the sport and they have to uphold that.

“There will be rows but at times somebody has to tell somebody else to sit down and shut up. That doesn’t appear to have happened. That’s what went wrong.

“You have to use words like ‘I’m sorry’. That’s part of any altercation and in sport they will always happen. But you have to go back and apologise. They’re simple words. Then somebody has to reassure the person who was heckled not to worry about it.

“That’s how the weighing-room should work but it stopped working which is the problem.”

Weekend action in Ireland is confined to Saturday's meeting at Fairyhouse which sees the return of champion jockey Paul Townend.

Willie Mullins’s No 1 rider dislocated a shoulder at the Listowel festival but is back in time for the upcoming Christmas action.

He is hardly easing back either with three rides for Mullins, the first two of which are in Beginners’ Chases. The bookings suggest both Blue Lord and Stattler have impressed in their schooling.

Rachael Blackmore will be at Cheltenham on Saturday where her rides include Henry de Bromhead's Ballyadam in the Grade Two Unibet International Hurdle. Her services have also been snapped up by Venetia Williams for Farinet in the Racing Post Gold Cup.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column