SO who is the whistle-blower? Who leaked a private document to the Sunday Telegraph that urged for the sacking of Nick Rust?
The email was sent to the BHA chair Annamarie Phelps. It was then leaked but by who?
It was announced in April 2019 that Phelps would take up her new and crucial role on June 1 of last year.
Since then, Phelps has taken part in what can only been described as numerous ‘love-in’ interviews. But that all changed this week.
Just in case some of you have no idea what this is all about, let’s have a quick recap.
Leaked emails shown to the Sunday Telegraph, that had been sent to Phelps, apparently told that trainers Mark Johnston and Ralph Beckett had called for the immediate removal of Nick Rust, the BHA chief executive who resigned in January but is still in power.
The handlers claimed, so the Telegraph said, that Rust’s actions during the Coronavirus crisis – leading to the deaths of more than 20,000 people in hospitals in Britain – have been self-serving and pandered to public perception over the wider good of the sport.
Beckett was also critical of a BHA press release on April 15 around the extension of racing’s shutdown from the end of April to an unspecified date. While Johnston has confirmed his views, Beckett has not openly admitted anything.
As a result of this sorry episode, I got in touch with Phelps, and asked for an interview on Wednesday evening. I was quickly given the cold shoulder.
“I’m sorry I have an ongoing obligation on Wednesday evenings so can’t do this,” Phelps wrote to me. “Please do contact Robin Mounsey (at BHA) if you have any requests in future and he can manage them best through my diary.”
I did just that. Mounsey added there were “no plans” to allow Phelps to speak to me at this this time.
So that’s the transparent BHA under the new BHA chair. If you want to ask serious and searching questions don’t bother. But if you want to tell anyone at BHA they are amazing I’m pretty sure you can have an interview whenever you want.
It’s a pathetic way to run a sport. Clearly, amid a coronavirus pandemic that is killing thousands and disrupting one of the biggest industries in the country, there is huge turmoil and unrest in the world of horse racing. For those in charge to basically ‘do a runner’ and not front up is far from surprising but massively disappointing. And the question it asks most is what have you got to hide?
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I have failed to get the answers, and I apologise for that. It’s not as if I am Jeremy Paxman or doing a ‘Cook Report’ on the BHA. Just simple quizzing from a simple racing scribe. That’s all.
The question still remains, why and who leaked the email? Some have suggested that if not Phelps, and Beckett has told me on Twitter that he didn’t do it, then it might have been someone else at the BHA.
Really you might ask?
Well it’s possible the leak could have come from a disgruntled BHA employee who has been furloughed. Or perhaps Rust himself leaked it.
After all, the bad press has only got people saying what a great job he has done. Rust was in a deteriorating position, but could have thought this would change all that.
Incidentally, I did ask Rust to comment on the matter, and it won’t be any surprise that he chose not to. “Matter for the board, really, Matt, given the emails were to my Chair,” said Rust.
So we are all none the wiser. If you leaked the email, please let me know!
Next week promises to be a huge one for the country as well as the Sport of Kings.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to set out how schools and workplaces could safely reopen once lockdown restrictions are eased, having claimed the UK is past the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.
And owners and trainers in Britain should find out what races will be staged when the sport resumes following shutdown.
To coin a phrase from The Firm’s 1987 hit Star Trekkin’ – “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it”.