Racing’s ruling body has denied that any of its London-based staff are earning less than the city’s living wage, contradicting a claim made by its outgoing chief executive, Nick Rust, in a valedictory TV show broadcast several times over the Christmas period. Rust made the claim in order to back up an assertion that the British Horseracing Authority is “considerably cheaper” than equivalent bodies in other major racing nations.
During an hour-long programme labelled ‘Rust’s Reflections’ on Sky Sports Racing, Rust said: “If you look at the average salaries of people who work here, we have a considerable amount of people who, even though they’re based in London, some of these people, are earning less than the national average wage and sometimes in London not hitting the living wage.”
The London living wage, calculated to reflect the higher cost of living in the capital, was raised to £10.85 per hour in November. Having checked twice, the BHA insists it has no London-based staff earning less than that, whether working full-time or otherwise.
Asked for an explanation, Rust told The Guardian: “If the BHA team says there are none below, then I’m probably out of date now, though we did have some in London below that level at one point. We did make an effort to bring up the lower salaries a bit, within the limited context of what was possible.”
Rust, whose term as chief executive ended at New Year, declined to answer further questions, including whether he should have checked the accuracy of such a point before using it in support of his contention about funding, and whether it would reflect poorly on him if, as he believed, London staff were getting less than the living wage after he had been chief executive for six years.
On the same programme, Rust stated his own salary for 2020 as being £320,000. The BHA said it could not verify that figure until its finances for last year had been audited but it is thought to be in line with a publicised salary cut taken by executives during the shutdown last spring. Rust’s pay for 2019 was £434,000 according to the BHA’s annual report.
It is not the first time Rust has relied on questionable data during a public appearance. While setting the context for his views on whip use, he told a meeting of stable staff that “98% of people under the age of 30 have never seen a horse”. In order to illustrate a point on society’s changing views about animals, he asserted in another TV appearance: “There are offices in London now which don’t have milk in the fridges … because milk is bad. Milk leads to cows being forced to be milked.”