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High Court rules for Racing UK in Doncaster case; Council to appeal after judge sanctions Sanderson deal.

Byline: DAVID ASHFORTH

RACING from Doncaster will continue to be shown on Racing UK until 2007 after the High Court yesterday ruled that an agreement signed by John Sanderson, chief executive of Doncaster Racecourse Ltd, was legally binding on Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council.

The council, which was ordered to pay Racing UK's legal costs, beginning with an interim payment of pounds 90,000, was given permission to appeal.

Richard Edwards, representing DMBC, stated that the council intended to do so.

The judgement places Doncaster racecourse, which is now run by Arena Leisure, in the curious situation of being managed by a major shareholder in At The Races while its races are broadcast by At The Races' fierce rival, Racing UK.

The case revolved around whether Sanderson, the major shareholder and chief executive of DRL, which had a management contract with the council, had the authority to enter into an agreement with Racing UK, on the council's behalf. Sanderson signed the three-year agreement on April 5, 2004.

At the end of a 23-page written judgement, Mr Justice Tugendhat concluded that 'Sanderson had no actual implied authority to enter into the agreement' but that he 'did have apparent or ostensible authority' because the council had allowed Sanderson to be seen as representing it in various negotiations.

Simon Bazalgette, Racing UK's executive chairman, said: 'We are delighted that Doncaster's fixtures will continue to form part of our portfolio of quality racing. I am also pleased for John Sanderson, who has maintained throughout that he has acted properly and in the best interests of the course. The judge's decision vindicates his stance absolutely.'

However, Sanderson, who is a BHB director and vice-chairman of the Racecourse Association, was criticised by the judge for his failure to communicate various significant developments to the council.

In particular, the judge stated that 'Sanderson has not explained to my satisfaction why, throughout the period April 5 to June 3, he made no report to the council of his signature of the agreement'.

As a result, when the council entered into a joint-venture agreement with Arena in May, it was not aware that Sanderson had already committed the racecourse's media rights to Racing UK.

Martin Winter, mayor for the council, said: 'I am hugely disappointed and we are appealing against this decision, which appears at face value to be bizarre.

'On one hand the judgement says Doncaster Racecourse Limited and its chief executive, John Sanderson, acted outside of their authority in entering into the agreement with Racing UK without the council's consent. However, it goes on to say that despite this, the agreement is still legally binding.'
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 9, 2004
Words:437
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