The racing industry left reeling from review of abuse in the sport

Scott Mcglynn
Horse Racing Betting Tips
Horse Racing News
The racing industry left reeling from review of abuse in the sport

Racing Victoria vows to work through the nine recommendations made by the Racing Integrity Commissioners report into abuse in the industry.

News Insights

  • Abuse dates back to the 1970s
  • All three codes are under the microscope
  • 71% of victims in thoroughbred racing
  • Racing Victoria agrees to nine recommendations made

The entire horse racing and betting industry has been left shocked by the volume and horrific nature of the findings from the independent review into abuse found in Victorian racing, with some dating back more than half a century.  

No matter where you go in the world, horse racing exists in a bubble. While this has some positives as a tight-knit group, the negative side is that serious issues have been covered up down the years, and now some of these have surfaced during this look into the industry.

It makes for grim reading, allegations of abuse, humiliating initiation ceremonies and rape. There are cases of physical abuse and some cases involving minors as young as 12. Described damningly as a ‘culture of silence’ as so much of this was swept under the carpet by authorities.  

31% of the cases were under 18 when they suffered harm within the industry for the first time. 80% were in the industry for less than three years before they suffered abuse for the first time, while 62% of those who suffered abuse were men compared to 36% of respondents who were women. 

Abuse dating back 50+ years

Unfortunately, the rose-tinted ‘good old days’ were indeed not that in the cases of the young people living away from home in dormitories who were the victims of sexual abuse going back 50 or more years. 

While only 7% of the harm cases in the review occurred in the 1970s and 7% in the 1980s, it is sad that people have carried this around for so long. Tales of threats of horses being moved away and those in senior positions abusing power were seen throughout the review.

Many of the early stories are of the initiation ceremonies, which would see the young and new workers in a stable subjected to abuse by the older staff. Most were minors then, but it was seen as a culture of ‘just getting on with it.’

Current concerns

38% of the cases in the study are from the 2020s, showing that there are still some deep-rooted problems within the industry. One of the comments in the review says, “Looking back, it made me sick. I go through a red light, and I’ve got a $300 bill two weeks down the track. You go and grope people, and you’re on the TV and radio.”

It is a tale of those who still use their ‘fame’ as a hold over others to get what they want from them and believe they can do it without any consequences. It is worth reading the whole report as it is an eye-opening experience, though some of the stories told are not for the faint of heart.

The nine recommendations 

  1. Senior VRI leaders acknowledge historical harm and commit to driving change.
  2. Create a steering committee made up of VRI stakeholders to oversee the recommendations.
  3. Establish a framework within 12 months to provide repair, restitution and rehabilitation.
  4. Develop a plan in the next year to prevent further cases.
  5. Within 18 months, establish an education programme for all industry participants.
  6. Each VRI controlling body should endorse the Racing Integrity Commissioner’s Office as a reporting mechanism for further cases.
  7. Each controlling body will update its complaint reporting procedure in the next year.
  8. To provide adequate well-being, protection and safeguarding for participants within 12 months.
  9. Develop and maintain a monitoring and evaluation framework in the next year for early intervention and annual reporting.

It is clear from the report that Racing Victoria has plenty of work to do. Following the recommendations will be a good start, but so much more needs to be done for an industry already under the severe scrutiny of public perception. We must do better.