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‘Bent’ judges

Is it fair to say that the Kennel Club is not doing enough to prevent 'bent' judging?

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Fact or fiction?

As long as dog shows have taken place the question of honesty and judging have been discussed by exhibitors ad nauseam. In this, or any other sport, where opinions are being sought there is the inescapable fact that, by definition, it is an individual’s view on the day.

This view can be right, wrong, biased or just downright stupid (like the judge who gave the BOB to a male dog they described as small and was told afterwards it actually was a bitch!)
How to PROVE someone is actually judging in an improper or bent way is a little more tricky.

However, the recent case of the Jockey Club being taken to task on a trial by TV has certainly got people talking in the world of dogs. The perception that all is not right in the world of horse racing appears to have overtaken the facts and little or no hard evidence has been produced. The same situation could be said of claims of cheating at dog shows, and this leaves the Kennel Club with a dilemma. Or does it? Is there a case to answer, or is it all idle chitter chatter around the rings?

OUR DOGS wants to shake this skeleton out of the cupboard and invites columnists and readers to let us have their views on whether a problem exists, and if it does, what to do about it.

We welcome all letters to the Editor by email, fax or letter.

Please reply to:

• Tel: 08707 31 65 00 • Fax: 08707 31 65 01

The Jockey Club’s inability or unwillingness to tackle alleged corruption in the horseracing world formed the subject of a much-heralded Panorama TV programme, writes Frank Jackson. Little that had not already been widely aired over several years was forthcoming in the one sided programme, nevertheless even the tired old has-been that Panorama has become was still able to aim a well-directed punch or two.

Any comparison between the Jockey Club’s inept performance and that of the Kennel Club’s would be grossly unfair to the latter. The only similarities appear to be that similar concerns exist about the determination with which both the Jockey Club and the Kennel Club address areas of possible corruption and that fears related to what appear to be declining standards of integrity arise within the bailiwicks of both organisations and that the members of both seem to regard themselves as an elite and as such not answerable to anyone.

The Jockey Club has a security department with a staff of over 60 led, at the present, by a recently appointed retired SAS Major General. The Kennel Club has no-one on its staff charged with the sole responsibility of keeping corruption at bay. The Jockey Club has a reputation for strict, sometimes almost pathologically strict, attention to ensuring that its rules are respected. Every race meeting is over seen by stewards with the power to punish wrongdoers. The Kennel Club takes a lackadaisical attitude towards at least some of its rules and has no independent official representative at any licensed events. The Jockey Club is at the heart of a multi £million industries; in comparative terms the Kennel Club is dealing in small change.

Charges that both the Jockey Club and the Kennel Club have been less than assiduous in their efforts to act effectively against wrongdoing have been close to the surface for some time. Both have tried to distance themselves from repeated allegations and have shown reluctance to take action.

The Jockey Club as an organisation, individual members of its staff and the entire sport of racing will now pay dearly for these failings.

Just a few quotations from the sporting and the quality press may go some way towards illustrating the extent of the damage.

‘Panorama, - portrays racing administrators as craven and complacent‚ Alan Lee’ The Times, Oct. 5. 

‘It is a closed and self-important society, suspicious of strangers and dismissive of any who question its ways.’ Allan Lee, The Times, Oct 5.

‘All the time the incompetent toffs of the Jockey Club do nothing except sit about on their upper-class bums. What it comes down to is two bodies obsessed by superficial appearances, by the triumph of image over substance. What is clearly not acceptable is doing nothing to stop it.’ Simon Barnes, The Times, Oct. 5.

‘It will not make comfortable viewing for the Jockey Club, whose ability to police the sport is brought strongly into question. The thrust of the programme is that the Jockey Club has “lacked the moral courage and backbone’ to tackle some major integrity issues.” David Ashworth, Racing Post, Oct. 5.

Racing was the victim of sustained corruption and the Jockey Club had failed in its duty to the sport.’ Richard Griffiths, Oct. 5, Racing Post.

‘The Jockey Club is portrayed as an inept and antiquated body, seemingly able but unwilling to deal with the wrongdoing being committed under its nose,’ David Yates, Daily Mirror, Oct. 5.

‘The programme rips to shreds the reputation of racing’s rulers‚ Claude Duval, The Sun, Oct 5.

‘The Jockey Club face their darkest hour ... failing to deal with „systematic corruption‰ which has plagued racing for 15 years. The perception is of a regulatory body ruled by grandees who are failing to keep the sport clean.‚ Richard Evans, Daily Telegraph, Oct. 5.

‘The Jockey Club has again been shown to be an ineffectual overseer, lame in the arguments about livelihoods at risk, lacking evidence of keeping its house in order.‚ Rob Hughes, The Sunday Times, Oct. 6.

‘Most Saturday newspapers adopted a hard-line editorial stance against the Jockey Club’s ability to regulate the sport,’ Andrew Scutt, Racing Post, Oct. 6.

The Kennel Club does not deserve such unsympathetic treatment but then probably neither does the Jockey Club.

The Jockey Club responded to criticism by creating a rule that allows it to act against persons who are not regarded as ‘fit and proper.’ The Kennel Club already has this ability. It can exert influence on who receives invitations to judge. It can refuse to allow people who are not fit and proper to award CCs. It enables shows to refuse entries from anyone regarded as neither fit nor proper. It already has the power but is not seen to be making effective use of that power.

Since the Panorama programme was transmitted the Jockey Club's senior security officer has resigned, the club has lost almost £7.5 million in income, its influence has been reduced, its powers curtailed and it faces the prospect of a rival organisation taking over some of its functions. This activity has come about not because of any new revelations or because proof has been forthcoming to support old allegations. It has come about simply because the Jockey Club is perceived as no longer up to the task of keeping racing clean and lacking the will to improve its performance.

What, especially by the Kennel Club, should not be forgotten, is that the Panorama programme was based almost entirely on rumour, innuendo, ill-advised outbursts and a lack of basic commonsense among its senior staff. There was little, if anything, that would stand up in a court of law. When the subject of malpractice is raised the Kennel Club tends to take shelter behind the absence of just such hard evidence. Panorama has demonstrated that the absence of hard evidence would provide only flimsy protection against the sort of immensely damaging programme it has just transmitted about the Jockey Club. Nor would it be difficult to find disgruntled, disillusioned and greedy people who would be prepared to dish the dirt in exchange for a brown envelope or a fleeting moment of notoriety. Some may already have been approached. No one can deny the existence of dark corners in the world of dogs. The Kennel Club must be seen to be doing something to shine a very strong light into them.

Furthermore October 18th. issue

– taken from Kennel Gazette, August 2002

IT IS sometimes said that one of the reasons for the high rate of turnover in those who participate in canine events is that some judges behave with less than perfect integrity.

Dissatisfaction with judges is put forward as one of the main reasons for people giving up the sport. It is also occasionally alleged that the Kennel Club does not do enough to correct this situation. Obviously the Kennel Club is concerned to ensure that the highest possible levels of integrity are practised by its judges.

It does a great deal to investigate areas of malpractice. Frequently, however, when those who make such allegations are asked to come up with hard evidence, they find it impossible to do so. The KC recognises that it is not ‘above the law’ and that it has to operate ‘within the law’. It must therefore confine itself to taking specific disciplinary action where the evidence on which it must rely indicates that there is a definite case to answer.

That does not, however, mean that no notice is taken of other issues. The Judges’ Sub-Committee and other committees responsible for the approval of judges, do not live in a cocoon - no matter how much those judges with less than perfect integrity would like them to. They live in the real world - attend shows and events and are aware when rumours about a judge’s integrity become commonplace. Anyone who thinks that such rumours do not influence committee members against errant judges is living in ‘cloud cuckoo land’. We cannot expect even members of the Judges’ Sub-Committee to be super-human! They are bound to be influenced by persistent adverse comments of this kind.

In some instances the lack of integrity is not even against the rules - merely against the spirit of the rules. Some judges are thought to ‘promote’ dogs after they have given them top awards. Others are rumoured to consult catalogues before they judge and mark their judge’s book accordingly. Let no-one believe, however, that this type of behaviour goes totally unnoticed. It is vital for our sport that judges act and are seen to act with integrity at all times.

Evaluation of existing CC judges

Following on from the current practice of evaluating Challenge Certificate judges at their first appointment for each breed, the General Committee, at its meeting on 16th April 2002, decided that this form of evaluation now be extended to cover judges who have previously been approved to award CCs.

Consequently, Challenge Certificate judges will be selected at random and evaluated at Championship shows to be held during the remainder of this year on a spot check basis. The Evaluators will be experienced Challenge Certificate judges of long standing selected by the Kennel Club's Judges Sub-Committee. The evaluations will cover compliance with show regulations, ring procedure and consistency of approach to judging. As with the other evaluations, these will be confidentially forwarded to the Kennel Club and submitted for consideration by the Judges’ Sub-Committee and there will be feedback to the judge as considered appropriate.

Kennel Club statement issued April 2002.