Racing welcomes the chance for a ‘clean sport
Racing Victoria chief executive Rob Hines today called for the statutory authority to be given greater powers to weed out race fixers and wrong doers.
Hines said he had “no concerns” whichever names were uncovered in the investigations into alleged race fixing — revealed today by The Age — but stressed his belief that the $4 million a year RVL spent on its integrity services budget ensured that the industry was overwhelmingly straight.
But he did urge the industry to develop closer relations with the police and declared that transparency and the full pursuit of probity issues were in the interests of all concerned in the multi-billion-dollar sector.
Hines said the biggest problem RVL faced was its inability to take action against unlicensed personnel — people who may have had dealings with licensed industry participants such as trainers and jockeys — if there was sufficient activity to warrant investigation.
Despite the adverse headlines, it was good for racing to have these matters discussed in the open, not swept under the carpet, he said.
“I don’t think it’s a negative. We need a clean sport, we need people to believe in it and trust in our sport,” Hines said.
“The more we do to root out these issues the better the sport will be, rather than try to push it under the carpet or not talk about it. We have to get on top of it.
“We do welcome the Victoria Police renewed focus on this. We have been collaborating on this particular investigation for a number of months.
“The allegations pertain to one race only at Cranbourne. We have not been asked or made aware of any other races involved in this investigation. We are waiting for the police investigation to reach a stage where we can legally obtain the information and then use it as evidence to open a stewards inquiry.
“When these issues arise they are related to betting. When you have this much money, billions of dollars invested in an industry, there will always be a few people looking to take advantage for financial gain. That’s just life.
“The vast majority of our participants, whether they be licensed or unlicensed, do this genuinely and honestly. There is a small group that will be looking to take advantage. We have to try and keep on top of that group.”
Hines said that a VCAT decision two years ago preventing RVL from taking action against unlicensed individuals stymied its ability to police the sport as much as it would like.
“That is a limitation, a gap in the integrity system of racing. We cannot have jurisdiction over (some) people who are making their living out of racing through betting or being commision agents or whatever,” he said.
“We requested of the government immediately after that decision, and consistently over the past two years, that they find a way to provide racing with jurisdiction over unlicensed persons … they haven’t shut the door on us, but we would like the power.”
Hines said he didn’t believe that the allegations, in which controversial jockey Danny Nikolic has been named, would damage confidence in the sport as it heads into the spring carnival.
“It’s always unwelcome to have this kind of publicity. But I would rather have the publicity, and have people know that we are fighting these things and fixing these things than not have the publicity and it to be much more widespread,” he said.
“We do not believe there is endemic corruption in the sport. That would be very damaging for racing, and the message we want to get out to people is that over 4000 races a year this is one race and a small group of people trying to take advantage.”
Asked if the industry was prepared for what might be a messy fall out, Hines was adamant.
“I think it would be very good for racing if this is cleaned out. I have no concerns if there are people implicated whether through the Purana Taskforce or some other way and this comes to light. It can only be good for racing,” he said.
“We really welcome their renewed focus. In the last six months they have genuinely turned their attention to these matters. We have a good co-operation, its much better than it was.”