Leading From The Front

Written By Wednesday 29th August 2012  

Leading From The Front

If the CEO at Pepsi were headhunted to run Coca Cola, would you believe him when he told you Coke was great drink? Maybe, because they are like products, but you would still have some doubts about his sincerity. Would he have the passion to convince his staff, his customers and the public?

David Gallop, no longer required by Rugby League, now has to do that for soccer. A big ask.

It’s not just the change of gauge. Plenty of bosses have made successful transitions from one business to another. In some cases, it’s a good thing because a fresh approach is needed.

But take note of what Craig Foster, former soccer player and now commentator, has written in the Sydney Morning Herald: “The game lives day to day, has done for decades. Survival is paramount, but people need a vision, a goal, a dream”.

Can Gallop provide those things? If he stood face to face with you and told you soccer was the greatest game ever, would you believe him?

One of soccer’s problems is that it now insists on being termed “football”. That works overseas but perhaps 70% to 80% of Australians will never accept that. They already have a “football”, thanks. Soccer team sheets are riddled with European names but so are AFL and ARL clubs and they are arguably better run that the long-fractious soccer community which has been flat out getting rid of disruptive ethnic rivalries or even keeping millionaire owners happy.

Gallop might well achieve some progress in that area but it will be hard graft all the way. The code’s leader cannot afford to carry a ball and chain with him. Soccer’s two previous bosses (both non-soccer types), gained relatively little penetration over several years.

Is this relevant to racing? Perhaps not in moving from one code to another. That’s been done quite happily in racing so long as the incumbent has a general appreciation of what makes a horse or dog run. That would fix the administrative angle. Yet, to really succeed, they still need that vision and passion so they can carry the world along with them. Administration is only half the battle. Without innovative management, the code is destined to maintain the status quo.

The first job for our leaders is to convince 70% or so of Australians that greyhounds are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Currently, the reverse is true. People do not appreciate the breed. That’s a big ask, too, but it is achievable.

Besides, no code of racing has a leader anyway. Try a test yourself. Ask the person next to you to name greyhound racing’s leader.

That question used to be easy to answer for the ARL. It still is for AFL. For cricket it is possible but it would be a struggle for most. For any other sport – fanatics aside – forget it. All of which just about approximates the size of their TV income.

CORPORATE STRATEGY GONE AMISS

It’s fascinating that the Ipswich greyhound club is busting to get approval of its plan to run non-TAB races on Saturday nights with modest prize money funded out of its own resources. The club claims it is knocking back too many nominations for its normal meetings and wants to keep trainers happy. Its president is a prominent trainer himself.

A good point about this would be that the meeting might attract a bookmaker to field on away meetings at the trots or at Wentworth Park and The Meadows, thereby pulling in a few extra customers.

As against that, it would not do any good for Saturday afternoon racing down the Capalaba straight and at Tweed Heads, or at Sunday twilight meetings at Albion Park, where 331m squibs’ races are popular. The latter also competes with Monday night Albion Park meetings, half of which are made up of maiden and novice races. And the Ipswich club races on Friday twilights anyway.

Those are all worth thinking about because the SEQ area is already short of dogs, particularly good ones. Despite the loss of the Gold Coast track, it is already hard put to fill fields at some Albion Park meetings, including the prime Thursday night slot where novice dogs now provide two of the ten races. There is also some diversion of business to the NSW Northern Rivers tracks, where 12-race meetings are common.

This amounts to Queensland’s attempt to follow the pattern set in NSW (Class C meetings), Victoria (Tier 3 and Non-Penalty meetings), and SA (extra weekly meetings, both in Adelaide and the country, which include many short races). The broad policy is the more races the better, never mind the quality. TAB commission rules the roost.

All of which is being done with a national dog population that has barely changed over the last 20 years. Hence the industry is providing more and more opportunities for slow dogs. That “give everyone a go” philosophy is fair enough up to a point but it has drawbacks.

Firstly, it puts poor racing in front of the public, thereby encouraging mug gamblers and downgrading the code’s image. Ipswich will not be doing that directly because it has no hope of gaining TAB/SKY attention on Saturday night – but the others do.

Secondly, at the margin, it reduces average field quality. The bad dogs have a habit of finding their way into what used to be classier meetings. Remember, a lot of existing meetings are flat out getting sufficient nominations anyway. Added to which is the fact that the recently added Saturday night meetings (Richmond, The Gardens and Traralgon) have served to divert betting away from the top class racing at Wentworth Park and The Meadows.

Ipswich resources might be better allocated to improving the quality of its track, which is already one of the two most disruptive in the nation. The 431m bend start is a shocker while 520m races suffer from a flat first turn.

Instead of just running more races, how about offering a better product and attracting more big spending customers? One good punter is worth a dozen, or maybe a hundred, mug gamblers.

The strange thing is that greyhound racing is the only sport or business known to mankind which insists on promoting bottom level competitors at the expense of quality performers. Along with the other two racing codes, it is also losing genuine customers to other forms of gambling and recreation, and has been doing so for 20 years. When will the penny drop?

Bruce Teague Bruce Teague (314 Articles)

Bruce Teague has had a lifelong interest in greyhound racing as a modest punter. Over the last 20 years he has helped develop and market the GreyBase range of computer form analysis programs, and written extensively for several industry publications. He has inspected over 30 greyhound tracks in recent years in the three eastern states and Tasmania. Bruce has a lengthy background in international and domestic airline management involving economic route studies and numerous visits to overseas aircraft manufacturers. He has conducted consultancies for private and government clients on policy and economic subjects.



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