Jockey Club Racecourses and Arena both eyeing takeover of crisis-hit Musselburgh

Jockey Club Racecourses and Arena Racing Company have expressed an interest in running Musselburgh racecourse, the Racing Post can reveal.

JCR chief executive Paul Fisher recently visited the troubled track, whose management has been the subject of a long-running power struggle.

A possible tender process could be set in motion after a meeting of East Lothian Council on June 26 and should either organisation take over, Musselburgh would become the first Scottish track to become part of a major racecourse group.

The BHA recently granted the course a further extension to its racing licence until the end of its Flat season on October 16, on the condition that steps were being taken to have a long-term governance structure in place by the end of 2018.

A working group with membership from the three political groups on East Lothian Council, Lothians Racing Syndicate and staff representation is exploring two options which would see the racecourse becoming an "arm’s length external organisation" of the council or being put out to tender for operation by a third party – such as ARC or JCR.

The group is due to make its recommendation by the next council meeting on June 26.

Musselburgh general manager Bill Farnsworth said: "Both Arc and the Jockey Club have spoken to us and expressed an interest but it doesn't really go any further than that.

"They both operate council-owned racecourses and I've said to both that the decision has to be made by the council on June 26 and until we know that decision they have to watch this space. There's no point spending a lot of time discussing something that might not happen."

'He'd heard good things'

Farnsworth said Fisher had recently been at Musselburgh but stressed that suggesting they were in any way preferred bidders was "putting two and two together and making ten".

"JCR did come to visit but they've been discussing all sorts of things for a number of years, operational stuff such as ticketing systems, and they were due to come up and see Musselburgh anyway," he said.

"Paul Fisher came – he'd heard good things about Musselburgh and said it was on his 'to-do' list, though I'm sure he was encouraged to come up because he was having a good look at the place.

"But there wasn't a great deal that we could discuss about any tender process because we don't even know if it's taking place."

Scotland's other courses, Ayr, Hamilton, Kelso and Perth, are all independently owned and run.

The news of Arc's interest in Musselburgh comes on the day it announced it had acquired Ffos Las in Wales.