Musselburgh’s future is up in the air once more with its ruling bodies still at loggerheads.
East Lothian Council (four members), along with the Lothian Racing Syndicate (three) make up the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee who run the racecourse.
In October law firm Pinsent Masons were appointed to undertake an independent review of the running of the course, the findings of which have not been made public.
A meeting held earlier this week suggested the council wished to take full control.
John Prideaux, chairman of the LRS, said: “Unbeknown to us the Council decreed that the racecourse would become an associate committee of the council. They didn’t inform the MJRC, who were governing the racecourse over those five years, and in decreeing it was to become an associate committee they made the current racecourse committee illegal.
“Every associate committee of a council has by law to consist of two-thirds council and one-third other and MJRC being a four-three set up didn’t meet that requirement.
“However, there is also a Minute of Agreement between the council and LRS over how the racecourse should be governed and that cannot be changed without the approval of both parties.”
He added: “So by decreeing in 2013 that the racecourse was to become an associate committee, the council breached that Minute of Agreement. The problems quite clearly are of the council’s own making.
“They have still been unable to advise the staff, who they met at an unsatisfactory meeting on Monday, what legal right they have to declare that the staff will no longer be employed by MJRC but that they will become East Lothian Council employees. We would argue that they have no legal right whatsoever.
“We would argue a lot of information was held back at the meeting and the staff were left extremely demoralised.
“They were told almost Big Brother-style that they would become council employees but I don’t think that can happen easily. I have already written to the council lawyer who asked if we would terminate the Minute of Agreement. I said we would not. We were also asked to provide nominations to sit on the new committee. We won’t be as we don’t think it is in the best interests of the racecourse.”
The Council insists it has the future of the racecourse as its priority.
Councillor Fiona O’Donnell said in a statement issued to Press Association Sport: “It would be premature to suggest any decisions have been taken and the options require consideration by all elected members at a full meeting of the council on February 27.
“We have been regularly keeping the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) updated on proposals and progress on developing these and I have met and had discussions with members of the LRS concerning the way forward for the racecourse. We are confident of reaching an outcome which puts the racecourse on a sustainable footing for the future, to the benefit of race-goers and employees alike.”
The BHA said in response: “At present it is a matter for East Lothian Council and the racecourse to determine the approach that they will take to reform the governance of the racecourse. The BHA has not yet been formally informed of the direction that will be taken following the conclusion of the independent governance review.
“Once a proposal is made, the BHA will consider the proposal and assess the situation with the racecourse’s licence, which is currently in place on a temporary basis through to April 7, 2018.”