The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has responded to the “strong reaction” provoked by adjustments to rule changes surrounding whip use.

On Wednesday (4 January) the BHA announced the adjustments, following a recent Board Meeting, which included removing the rule which stated that the whip may only be used in the backhand position. It has been replaced by an amendment to the rules regarding the number of times the whip may be used in a race.

The thresholds for use has been reduced to a maximum of six times in a flat race and seven times in a jump race, down from seven and eight respectively. Penalties for use above the permitted level, and misuse offences will be further increased, beyond the previous increases the authority published in November

“This change follows additional concerns being raised by jockeys in the last few weeks, including some information which was not aired during the consultation or technical discussion phase,” the BHA said. “This included the feedback that some jockeys who have suffered shoulder or collarbone injuries may find use of the whip solely in the backhand more challenging.”

‘Strong reaction’

Whip Consultation Steering Group Chair David Jones said it was “inevitable that the adjustments to the rules […] would provoke a strong reaction”.

“Any sport, especially one with the heritage and tradition of British racing, will always find change difficult,” he said in a BHA blog. “We understand this, and it was never going to be easy. This, however, should not make us afraid to bring about change for the good of the sport.”

The rule change amendments followed a period of dialogue between the BHA, the Professional Jockeys Association and jockeys. The BHA Board met to consider further representations from all parties, before deliberating and agreeing on the revisions to the rules.

“The objectives of the package of 20 recommendations includes developing rules which foster more considered and judicious use of the whip for encouragement, and improving the perception of whip use,” the BHA said. “The BHA Board agreed that these objectives could be met equally through either the backhand-only rule, or the reduction in thresholds and increase in penalties announced [on Wednesday], when combined with the full package of measures announced in the summer.

“These changes do not, in the view of the BHA Board, reflect a dilution of the package of rule changes, but instead a method of achieving the same outcomes through a different approach.”

Consultation process

David Jones, Regulatory Independent Non-Executive Director for the BHA, and Chair of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said the consultation between 2021 and 2022 was “extremely thorough” and was the technical discussion that followed was “extensive”.

“Efforts were taken to listen to the views of jockeys from both codes, over many hours,” he said. “This consultation has arguably been the most thorough undertaken by the BHA in relation to any specific regulatory reform in the past.

“In order to ensure that this process was suitably rigorous we pushed back the planned autumn implementation date for new rules.

“However, we are committed to listening to our participants, and when further views and information come to light very late in the day, and following the conclusion of that process, we were duty bound to consider it, and make representations to the BHA Board accordingly.”

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