On Friday, 25 July 2014 the NHA issued a press release saying they had investigated allegations that the organisers of the 2013 International Jockeys Challenge had acted fraudulently and brought racing into disrepute.
The NHA states that according to SASCOC’s Constitution, only SASCOC has the power to award national colours to individuals. That happens to be incorrect, but that’s a story for another day. SASCOC’s Chief Executive Officer (that would be Tubby Reddy) has confirmed that no Jockeys’ Association in South Africa has been registered as a member of the South African Equestrian Federation nor as an affiliate member of SASCOC. Therefore SASCOC could not have awarded national colours to any jockey. The NHA states “In view of this, the awarding of Protea colours to the Jockeys representing team South Africa at the 2013 Jockeys’ International Challenge was outside the scope of the organisers of that event.”
How did this happen?
The cause of this monumental boo-boo is an email from the Chief Financial Officer of SASCOC (Mr Vinesh Maharaj) addressed to Larry Wainstein which allegedly caused a bona fide misunderstanding, and left the Jockey International organisers thinking that they had the green light to proceed. A copy of that email is set out below:-
Following my discussions with our CEO, you can proceed to announce the Jockeys that are being awarded colours as Team South Africa. I trust that all works out for your awards evening on Thursday. I will try to arrange for someone from SASCOC to be present if possible…”
Let’s start at the top. Fraud is a bit of a nebulous term, but according to the Principles of Criminal Law by Jonathan Burchell, the legal definition reads as follows “Fraud consists in unlawfully making, with intent to defraud, a misrepresentation which causes actual prejudice or which is potentially prejudicial to another.”
Racing’s famous ‘disrepute’ rule is rule 72.1.26 and reads as follows: “No person shall behave or conduct himself in such a manner which has or might have the effect of discrediting horse racing or which does or might bring into disrepute the good name of the NATIONAL HORSERACING AUTHORITY, a RACING OPERATOR, any training establishment, the ACADEMY, the STEWARDS or members of any committee of the NATIONAL HORSERACING AUTHORITY or any INQUIRY BOARD, APPEAL BOARD, INQUIRY REVIEW BOARD, the LICENSING BOARD, any OBJECTION BOARD or any RACING OPERATOR or any official of the NATIONAL HORSERACING AUTHORITY or RACING OPERATOR.” Which could mean just about anything really.
Back in 2008, Mr Larry Wainstein, acting CEO of the RA as well as a director of the NHA, and Mr Neil Smith of Ten Thousand Stallions Management, conceived the idea of a jockey invitational. The concept is a good one and indeed has been done before to great effect with the Bull Brand International which featured riders such as Gianfranco Dettori and Lester Piggott. However, for some reason, the new organisers insisted on building in an extra feature and insisting that the South African ‘squad’ be granted their Protea colours.
There was just one problem. SASCOC’s Constitution requires sports who want SASCOC recognition to belong to internationally recognised federations. Racing was not affiliated to any organisation recognised by SASCOC and had no channel through which to apply. In the end the NHA applied for membership with the SA National Equestrian Federation (it is worth stating that the Equestrian Federation underwent some structural, leadership and name changes over the intervening years, so for ease of reference, I will just refer to them as the Equestrian Federation). It was a fairly lengthy and arduous process and Phumelela even issued a press release at the time stating how onerous and complicated it had all been.
However, with the assistance of Tony Lewis (then head of the Equestrian Federation), membership was granted. Quite how this was pushed through is up for debate as the NHA is a broad-spectrum body, covering owners, breeders, the stud book, jockeys, trainers and owners. Furthermore, it administers both South African and Zimbabwean racing as well as their two stud books. But let’s not get too hung up on water that has already flowed under the bridge. The jockey international went ahead and in 2008, 2009 and 2010 national colours were awarded to a team of jockeys selected using the national log and a couple of wild cards chosen by a committee. Wild cards? For a National team? Interesting strategy.
Where it started going wrong
In 2011, the Equestrian Federation underwent a drastic restructure and drew up a new Constitution. The NHA, under the Chairmanship of Rob de Kock, objected to several of the new clauses and resigned their membership on 7 October 2011. In early November, with arrangements for the jockey international at an advanced stage, it was suddenly realised that there was no Equestrian Federation membership, so, cutting it somewhat fine, on 8 November 2011, the NHA un-resigned its membership in order to allow the jockeys international to take place on 11 and 13 November. Shortly after the event, the NHA re-resigned its membership again.
At the same time, there had been an objection from Adv Brett Maselle regarding the legitimacy of allowing jockeys to ride in silks representing their countries, rather than in owners’ colours. When he petitioned the NHA that it was breaking its own rules, the rules were simply amended to accommodate the wearing of ‘international’ silks (see rule 8.3.5). This was processed on 11 November 2011, the day of the first international fixture.
Where it got really sticky
On to 2012 and another Jockey International. Despite racing now having no Equestrian Federation membership of any kind, the RA started issuing press releases stating that SA colours would be awarded for the 2012 squad. I contacted Larry as early as September 2012 (and repeatedly at intervals thereafter) informing him that colours could not be awarded as there was no Equestrian Federation membership. Larry insisted that I was wrong. Things get a little complicated after that, but essentially the Equestrian Federation did not consider the NHA a suitable applicant. Instead, Tex Lerena’s Jockeys Association was tasked with obtaining membership. They applied, but because we have 2 separate jockey associations rather than one unified body, the Equestrian Federation turned down Tex’s application as his organisation was not deemed sufficiently nationally representative. By now time was running very very short.
Larry and co tried to persuade the Equestrian Federation to accept a membership application via round robin (although with both the NHA and Jockey Association ineligible to apply, the body they intended to use for the application remains unclear), but the Equestrian Federation made the rules and requirements quite clear to the organisers and chose to stick to their Constitution and insisted on processing the application as normal at their forthcoming AGM – a date unfortunately scheduled AFTER the running of the jockey international. As an interesting aside, neither the RA nor the Jockeys Association bothered to pursue the membership application after the Jockeys International.
So, Protea colours could not be awarded in 2012 because the organisers failed in their due diligence and did not ensure that the relevant paperwork was processed in good time. As the Protea emblem is a national asset and abuse is a punishable offence, the NHA acted correctly in preventing Protea colours being awarded. Unfortunately Mr Wainstein took a rather different view, appearing on Tellytrack to blame Adv Maselle and myself for the stuff up, rather than accepting that it was an organisational shortcoming on his behalf that had let down the jockeys, sponsors and the racegoing public.
The unfortunate acrimony and embarrassment of an industry official conducting himself in an unbecoming manner on national television aside, those interviews demonstrate that Larry had a pretty good grasp of the regulations and processes required for obtaining SA colours.
Lather, rinse, repeat
On to 2013 and the same story and the same billing that the jockeys were getting SA colours, despite Adv Maselle again warning the NHA that the awarding of colours was not possible. I approached Mr Wainstein during the Cape leg of the 2013 international and asked whether they had finally resolved the Equestrian Federation membership issue. He said no, but that they had arranged a membership directly with SASCOC instead. He said that a new, national jockeys association had been formed and that it was being run by sports management company ProSport, headed up by Mike Makaab. ProSport had allegedly got SASCOC to amend their constitution to allow sports without international federations to apply for membership and ProSport had managed to obtain the relevant permissions and colours for the jockeys.
Mr Makaab subsequently confirmed the information I’d received from Larry. Unfortunately when I contacted SASCOC, they claimed to have no knowledge of ProSport, a jockeys association or a jockeys international.
I reported the matter to Denzil Pillay at the NHA in December and was furnished with a copy of Mr Maharaj’s email. I then contacted SASCOC. Sadly, the gentleman who issued the pesky email at the root of all this, SASCOC’s CFO Mr Vinesh Maharaj (who interestingly is also director of our Racing Trust), has so far refused to reply to questions on the matter. Mr Tubby Reddy, SASCOC’s CEO, maintains that the Jockeys Association is not a member of SASCOC.
Furthermore, in an appearance on Winning Ways in March 2014, Mr Makaab states that ProSport represents ‘about 25 jockeys’. That figure is no-where near nationally representative and I’m not at all sure that the 2013 SA squad were even all ProSport members.
So many questions
So why did Mr Makaab say they had SASCOC membership? Why did Larry? And why did Mr Maharaj instruct the RA to go ahead and announce the awarding of colours?
The NHA press release states that it was a bona fide misunderstanding. That despite 5 years of organising the event, most of which were problematic for this exact reason, neither Larry in his capacity as RA CEO or NHA director, Neil Smith as director of Ten Thousand Stallions, Mike Makaab as director of a professional sports management company and head of the 25-strong ‘national’ jockeys association, the NHA who had been involved with the event for 5 years, or even one of the admin staff, thought to question that after all the headaches of years gone by, suddenly a single email, from SASCOC’s CFO no less, would suffice as permission for awarding SA colours?
Why do I care?
Honestly? I don’t. I do not see how a jockey having his Protea colours adds to or detracts from the international, as none of the visiting team are regarded as representing their countries. So why the song and dance about ours? It has no effect on the silks they wear, so why all this who-ha about a blazer that ends up sitting in a cupboard?
The problem I do have is that we were told our jocks had colours when they didn’t. Our jockeys are serious sports people and if someone promises them colours then I think it should be done properly. I also feel strongly that when sponsors are involved and being told that their money is going towards hosting an event with bona fide recognised and endorsed SA athletes, that it should genuinely be so. The same goes for the public.
Was it a bona fide misunderstanding? The Protea emblem is a national asset. Using it without the requisite permission becomes a legal matter. With the legislation easily accessible (and understandable), citing ‘ignorance’ can be gross negligence at best. Was racing brought into disrepute? The NHA (of which Mr Wainstein is a director) seems to think not. I doubt it has done much to enhance our credibility however. Given the punishments meted out to folks for daring to question authority, how come our authorities are allowed so easily off the hook when they repeatedly get things wrong?
Why did it take 8 months for the NHA to act? History will bear out that people get charged with ‘bringing racing into disrepute’ for just about anything – and fairly smartly too – just ask Louis Goosen or Weiho Marwing! Why the glaring disparity here?
The NHA states that they are there to maintain the integrity of horse racing. I happen to think it is vital that we have a strong, independent regulatory body. Unfortunately the way this incident was handled has done little to convince me that we do.