Bryony Frost’s trust in PJA has broken down following Robbie Dunne bullying case, chief Paul Struthers admits

Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA), admits Bryony Frost’s trust in them has broken down following Robbie Dunne’s seven-month campaign of bullying and harassment.

Dunne has been banned from racing for 18 months, with three months suspended, after being found guilty of bullying and harassing Frost between February 13, 2020 and September 3, 2020.

In October the PJA had called on the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to bring the case to a close, claiming a fair hearing would be “impossible” after details of the report were leaked to a newspaper.

Speaking on the Racing Debate, Struthers told Sky Sports Racing that he had yet to contact Frost but that PJA board member Mick Fitzgerald had been in touch following Thursday’s verdict.

“I haven’t been in touch with Bryony but I will be,” he said. “We need to reach out.

“I think there has been a breakdown of trust, from Bryony to us, and we need to understand why, what we can do better and accept where we have got things wrong.”

In delivering their findings, the BHA’s independent disciplinary panel stated any weighing room culture which allows jockeys to threaten serious injury to another or their horse, to call another a w***e, a s**t and a s**g is “sour and rancid”.

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Trainer Neil King, a long-time supporter of Frost with rides, has criticised both the BHA and PJA for their handling of the Dunne case

The PJA statement issued following that verdict criticised both the BHA investigation and the panel, while expressing sympathy that Frost “felt” bullied – a statement Struthers has since acknowledged could have been worded differently.

“I accept that our statement wasn’t as conciliatory as it could have been but we were dealing with a situation that was inflamed by those words,” Struthers said.

“You have to understand the damage the ‘rancid and sour’ wording caused.

“There is no doubt that things need to change. We do defend the weighing room and it is not perfect but it is also not as portrayed and even the BHA acknowledge that.

Bryony Frost's statement following the BHA's ruling against fellow rider Robbie Dunne
Bryony Frost’s statement following the BHA’s ruling against fellow rider Robbie Dunne

“There is no doubt that the language used [by Dunne] was grossly inappropriate.

“Bryony has been through a horrendous time and shown huge courage.

“There is a lot of things to learn and I apologise, particularly to Bryony, if we have made it worse.”

‘Weighing room self-policing ludicrous and unfair’

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Journalist Kevin Blake joined the Racing Debate to reflect on the aftermath of the Frost-Dunne case and what he views as a ‘failure of officialdom’ in allowing the weighing room to ‘self-police’

Journalist Kevin Blake believes that in the aftermath of the case too much focus has been placed on the BHA’s wording, rather than what may have enabled Dunne’s behaviour to go on for so long.

Blake feels that the weighing room’s acceptance of ‘self-policing’ is an unfair system and points to a “failure of officialdom”.

“It’s frustrating to listen to some of misdirection from this case and the focusing in on words,” Blake told the Racing Debate. “You have to break this down to its fundamental parts. Why did this case happen?

“If we’re to believe the evidence that was given by Robbie Dunne this all arose because of concerns over Bryony Frost’s riding and his view that it wasn’t being adequately dealt with by the stewards. If we’re led to believe the evidence then other jockeys had concerns too.

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BHA Director of Integrity and Regulation Tim Naylor has said Dunne’s language towards Frost was deemed unacceptable in any workplace, including horse racing

“You have a situation where, in some jockeys’ opinions, the stewarding of interference wasn’t being dealt with properly. In Robbie’s case, he felt he had to deal with it himself.

“This notion of self-policing seems to be widely accepted in the weighing room. It’s absolutely ludicrous in 2021.

“A self-policing system just doesn’t work and completely favours senior jockeys and strong personalities. It’s fundamentally unfair.

“In the Robbie Dunne case, where were the other people in the weighing room when he was dealing with this so poorly?

“The weighing room is full of officials so how do we get to the point where jockeys might be abusing one another? This is a failure of officialdom and a failure of stewarding.”

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