The announcement follows an independent governance review, requested by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), which put forward options for the future running of the facility.
After considering different models, a working group – consisting of East Lothian Councillors, members of the Lothians Racing Syndicate, the Racecourse General Manager and senior council officers – unanimously recommended that the long-term operation of the Musselburgh Racecourse should be carried out by a third-party operator.
Following a public procurement process, East Lothian Council has named Chester Race Company – which owns racecourses at Chester and Bangor-On-Dee – as the preferred bidder to take on the operation of the racecourse, which sits on Common Good land and remains in the ownership of East Lothian Council
Council Leader Willie Innes said: “This is a very welcome announcement which secures the future of Musselburgh Racecourse.
“The facility has earned an excellent reputation thanks to the hard work and commitment of its employees – and one which we have always been keen to maintain and support.
“Appointing a third-party operator was one of the options set out in the independent governance review required by the BHA. The working group unanimously agreed that this was the most appropriate option to pursue.
“Chester Race Company is recognised as a leader in its field and, through the procurement process, has demonstrated that it has the expertise to take Musselburgh Racecourse forward.
“It has the capacity to build on Musselburgh’s reputation, grow and develop the racecourse for the benefit of the local community and economy, employees and the racing fraternity.”
Richard Thomas, CEO of Chester Race Company, said: “We are delighted to have been successful in the tender process. It has been our long-held ambition to increase the number of racecourses within our group and this is just the start of that process. It is fantastic to now be able to say we have three racecourses spanning the British Isles. Musselburgh is a fantastic course at the heart of the East Lothian community and we are committed to ensuring its future is protected. We are excited to get started by working closely with the team and driving a successful handover.”
Following the conclusion of a standstill period which follows the procurement process, Chester Race Company will be invited to sign an initial 10-year contract to operate the racecourse on the council’s behalf.
A date for the start of the new contract will be confirmed in due course.
Employees of the racecourse will be transferred from the employment of the Musselburgh Racing Associated Committee to that of Chester Race Company.
The BHA recently extended Musselburgh Racecourse’s licence until the end of 2019. The council and Chester Race Company will liaise with the BHA to secure a licence for 2020.