Hopes for a rapprochement between the sides at the centre of the dispute over Musselburgh racecourse receded last night.
A meeting between representatives of the East Lothian Council (ELC) and Lothians Racing Syndicate (LRS) failed to broker a deal leaving the future of the track in grave doubt.
Last month an ELC meeting voted unanimously to create a new committee to replace the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC), responsible for the administration of the course since 1994.
The Musselburgh Racing Associated Committee (MRAC) would comprise four councillors and two members representing “racing interests” while the MJRC has three members of the LRS.
It was a surprise to some that the LRS would agree to talk, given the ELC’s obvious attempt to marginalise them. However, the LRS members are acutely aware of the gravity of Musselburgh’s situation with the current racing licence from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) due to expire on April 7.
However, no progress was made and John Prideaux, the chairman of the LRS, said: “There had been a complete break-down of trust with East Lothian Council members and it is plain their only interest is in railroading through this ill-thought out proposal to take complete control of the racecourse.
“They have ignored the bulk of the Pinsent Masons’ report which was commissioned to put in place proper governance at the racecourse and to secure its long-term future, following years of damaging mismanagement by ELC members. Instead, they have cherry-picked from the report to force upon the racecourse staff – and the race-going community – a solution which suits only their own agenda.”
As the LRS will not sit on the new committee the ELC plans to advertise, but one woman who will not be volunteering is Lucinda Russell.
The Grand National-winning trainer fears for the future of Musselburgh if “politics” gets in the way of a solution. “I wouldn’t want to because I don’t know how to run racecourses,” she said. “I think the important thing is that they have someone there that understands how to run a racecourse.
“It’s being run exceedingly well – up until now. The turnover and everything else shows that, and the most important thing is to continue that work and run it for the best interests of racing.”
Russell’s view is likely to be one repeated throughout the sport and she believes the current dispute must be resolved in the right way.
She added: “I think the BHA has to be asked about it.
“If they don’t see the racecourse able to be run in a fit manner they won’t give the licence, and I think that would be correct.”