THE future of Musselburgh Racecourse was looking very grim last night after the British Horseracing Authority stripped the East Lothian track of its racing licence.

A long-running row between the three professional racing people and some of the East Lothian councillors who together make up the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC) exploded yesterday afternoon when the BHA issued its ultimate sanction.

There is now a real threat to the racecourse’s future as no racetrack in Britain can be used for racing without a BHA licence.

Unless the Committee agrees to an independent review of its governance by Thursday, the BHA will cancel the scheduled meeting on July 14 and if the impasse continues, Musselburgh will not have its licence renewed.

Musselburgh sits on the Honest Toun’s Common Good land with all the buildings and facilities owned by East Lothian Council.

A bitter dispute has blown up in recent years between the three experienced members of Lothian Racing Syndicate and some of the council’s representatives on the Committee.

The National revealed in April that clashes between the two parties had prompted the BHA to issue only a temporary licence to the end of June.

Former councillor and MJRC chairman John Caldwell was seen as a particularly divisive figure, but he lost his seat in the local elections in May.

He has been replaced by Councillor Willie Innes, councillor for the Preston/Seton/Gosford ward, the leader of both the Labour Group and East Lothian council. The National can reveal that East Lothian Council were very reluctant to see any external examination of the way in which the racecourse is run, and decided to ignore the BHA deadline of yesterday.

The BHA called their bluff, however. A BHA statement said: “The BHA can confirm that the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee [MJRC] has not met the conditions set by the BHA for the renewal of its racecourse licence by the required deadline, June 30, 2017.

“This is despite frequent ongoing discussions with the MJRC initiated by the BHA on the issues of concern since late in 2016. Accordingly, Musselburgh racecourse’s licence has, for the time being, lapsed.”

John Prideaux, chairman of the Lothian Racing Syndicate, said: “We have indicated throughout that we are willing to accept all of the conditions imposed by the BHA to have an independent review in to the governance of the racecourse. East Lothian Council have not and continue to object to the BHA stipulations, and their inaction has resulted in the racecourse licence lapsing.”

Councillor Innes issued the following statement: “The MJRC has responded to the BHA timeously and is continuing to engage with the BHA to progress matters positively and constructively.”