The GRNSW pleas to the parliamentary inquiry are probably logical enough, considering the state of its finances today (see a summary of proceedings so far by Clarinda Campbell on 27 November). Future viability of many tracks is in doubt, according to CEO Brent Hogan, because of the bleed of cash to the other two racing codes under the terms of the 1998 commission sharing agreement.
It all casts black marks on the earlier administrationâs decision to sign a fixed 99 year agreement on the split. It beggars belief that any commercial operation would make such a commitment, knowing that the future century could see world wars, famine, pestilence, sea level changes and â most important of all â growth throughout the Australian. Yet it was done, and even today one person intimately involved in the decision has told me it seemed a good idea at the time.
But are greyhound administrations generally capable of good decision-making anyway? And do they learn?
Since that era, NSW has strongly opposed the arrival ofand NT bookies, notably in a speech by the then-chairman, Professor Percy Allen, who implored participants to avoid the newcomers at all costs. (At least four other states did likewise â WA, SA, Queensland and, for a while, Tasmania). That attitude was magically reversed a few years later and all now live happily together. Which is just as well as NSW gets to keep all that commission, unlike the stuff coming in through the TAB. But what an emotional and slapdash way it was to handle a fresh challenge. Allen was a public servant and part-time academic, not a businessman.
NSW has also spent millions over the last decade on developing tracks at Wentworth Park, Newcastle, Gosford, Bathurst, Richmond, Dapto and, more recently, Goulbourn and Maitland. All of that was poorly researched, resulting in old faults re-appearing or new ones created. The entire Dapto track, for example, needed a move of some metres to the north to get it away from track infrastructure, thereby allowing a more sensible start for 520m races (box 1 is now hard up against the line of the running rail), as well as an uninterrupted view for SKY watchers. At the re-built Goulbourn track, flat turns affect the running while inside dogs in 457m races must first turn right then left to avoid going straight into the rail
Earlier this year, GRNSW announced a plan to move the Border Park track at Tweed Heads to Queensland jurisdiction. This revolutionary prospect was accompanied by not a shred of justification but got applause from Racing Queensland, which immediately made a slot available in its TAB calendar. Yet how could it happen? The process would involve huge changes to laws and contractual obligations in both states, to say nothing about the constitutionality of effectively altering state borders. And this came from an administration that has previously cut back the Border Park dates â amazingly, at a time when the nearby Gold Coast track had just closed down. Perhaps it hoped that two wrongs would make a right.
But it all begs the question of why GRNSW decided to forge ahead over the last few years by adding more races and upgrading clubs to TAB status in the face of declining fortunes. Any greyhound expansion could only contribute more to the other two codes (as it did during the equine influenza epidemic), and dilute average revenue per race. And why has it failed to cut costs by combining adjacent clubs? That did happen with Orange and Bathurst, but that was largely due to local initiatives rather than those of GRNSW. Other opportunities to repeat the exercise have been ignored. Cowra/Young, Gunnedah/Tamworth and Casino/Lismore are classic opportunities, for example. Financially, the high prize money for premium races, such as the Golden Easter Egg, must also come into play. If the state is in strife, why is the budget not attacked?
Queensland itself has been dithering for years about the replacements options for the flood-prone Albion Park site and the Gold Coast track, which was lost to the neighbouring hospital. Several have been put up but both the industry and two different governments have been unable to settle on a desirable location, never mind where the money is coming from. But it is doing that in an environment where the state is continually running short of dogs and also running at a loss. None of that is new, itâs been trending that way for years yet remedial action is absent. On top of it all are a series of ongoing arguments and judicial inquiries about the use of funds by Racing Queensland.
Tasmania is also losing money, frequently generating questions in its parliament, none of which seem to address the oddity that local racing is run by what is effectively a government department. It was not doing too well beforehand, but the sale of its tote to TattsBet has sharply reduced turnover and made things worse. That drop would have been an obvious outcome to anyone versed in the habits of punters, so the bleed over to Melbourne and Tabcorpâs bigger pools should have been readily forecast.
WA is not without its challenges, notably that it cannot fund the second half of its enforced move to a new site to replace Cannington and is waiting for government to bail it out.
SA is managing reasonably, but turnover is rising mostly on the back of added races, not internal growth (a fact that the last annual report failed to identify). However, it has been able to negotiate its way towards better splits of TAB commissions. Even so, it has two strategic risks: it is part of a declining TattsBet portfolio and the state is massively dependent on the supply of racing stock by the Wheeler organisation.
Better deals are also the key in Victoria where, relatively, it is awash with money. Frequent government handouts â for track development and breeding incentives, for example â and much improved commission splits have paved with way for regular prize money increases, including the almost obscene $350,000 for the Melbourne Cup winner. Even then, one of those handouts â an increased subsidy for local breeding activity â was not accompanied by any economic justification and is highly unlikely to achieve what the Minister claimed it would do. Suppose breeding were to increase by, say, 10%, would that result in higher employment in the industry? Hands up all the breeders who will be putting on more staff in that event.
Even were the increase justified, the basic theme of providing subsidies for local breeding is a fraud in its own way. There is no evidence that they produce any real benefit to the industry, especially as every state does it. They are no more than handouts to an already profitable sector of the industry. If anything, they might do the opposite if they encourage owners to send bitches to a less than ideal sire.
All told, the common threads amongst all states are a reliance on governments to bail them out when things get tough, a thinning out of both the number and quality of dogs, and a drop in average turnover per race. That includes the flourishing state of Victoria. All this prompts, or coincides with, the obvious outcome of a drop in serious punters numbers and a rise in the proportion of business coming from mug gamblers, both of which pose strategic risks.
But looking at the even wider picture, where isheaded and what are we doing about it? Despite the presence of so-called Strategic Plans there are little vision, long term planning, or meaningful objectives, hence administrations are getting into strife they might have avoided. The customary short term outlook of politicians does not help, of course, but it remains a prime responsibility of managements to build and maintain profitable businesses anyway.
The short answers to the problem are that (a) the industry is run by administrators and not managers, (b) the profit motive is absent, and (c) also absent is any system to call management to account. Short of a march down main street to parliament there is no real method of getting the effectiveness of state boards checked out (the current NSW inquiry is unlikely to achieve a lot, mostly because the government is not running it). Racing Ministers take little notice of complaints or refer anything back to the racing board to comment on. Very circular!
Yet the evidence is everywhere that normal commercial decision-making processes are bypassed. At best, the focus is on breaking even during the current year, not on achieving development and a âprofitableâ outcome in the long term.
The blame for that position is due squarely, not so much to the individuals, but to the system under which they operate. That system is broken, if it ever were valid. A structure which assigns all responsibility to a committee is always destined to be inefficient and unresponsive, irrespective of how much or how little authority is vested in the CEO. If the CEO is strong it means the board will be weak. If the board is strong, it means the CEO will show less initiative, which is a big problem for a sport/business which is desperately trying to catch up with the outside world (or should be).
Historically, the big cry was âget more dog men on the boardâ. That has already proved a disaster, although Queensland has not read the message yet. Perhaps what we need in the exact opposite. Objective outsiders might then call for a re-examination of the way we are doing business.
Itâs happened before and it will happen again. The selective nonsense pumped out by the ABC 7:30 program on greyhound practices does nobody any good, including the ABC and its shoddy journalism. Unfortunately, the subject will rear its head once again when the inquiry by the Greens/Shooters alliance in the NSW parliament gets up a head of steam later in the year.
But itâs not much good protesting now. The milk has been spilt. However, note that virtually none of the mainstream media bothered to pick it up, as they did for the announcement of the equally poorly-based political inquiry nearly two months ago. Clearly, they regarded the program as half-baked and old hat. Even so, the anti-greyhound groups jumped at the chance to push their biased and often inaccurate viewpoints. They donât seem to realise that greyhounds actually like to race â itâs in their DNA â just as humans like to compete on the golf course or the football field.
Indeed, the RSPCA, supposedly experts in the field, should be pointing that out.
But why did it occur in the first place? It seems some bright spark in the ABC hit upon the idea on a slow news day, perhaps prompted by some personal feelings about the greyhound. Itâs not unusual for the ABC to create its own agenda and then look for the means to support it â any means will do.
But that is always going to be a possibility. The real key is that the idea, and the TV presentation, fell on poorly prepared ground. Poorly prepared, that is, by the state racing authorities as well as Greyhounds Australasia, which tend to concentrate on insiders rather than the public.
While the ABC is notorious for its slanted views, it would have had little background information to guide it in this case. What it did get from officials was after the event and largely put to one side because it did not fit its theme. Sadly, public support for the greyhound breed andis minimal, largely because they do not understand what it is all about. Too many industry insiders â many of whom were rightly offended by the program â fail to realise that this is how the real world works.
The vast majority of publicity about greyhounds always has been nasty â dating from the days of live hare coursing and later re-inforced by periodic stories about drugs, injuries and the like. Ironically, the codeâs attack on drug use has been arguably its greatest single advance over the years, and its biggest success, even by comparison with other sports. Yet the general public does not know that.
The good news is that this is fixable. Not by pumping out media releases after the damage has been done but by educating and informing the public beforehand. Not with a quickie effort but with a continuing program to establish and maintain a positive image of the breed, its long history, its unique purity and its athletic prowess.
That is the responsibility of greyhound boards and managements everywhere. Itâs their first responsibility, really. But they are not carrying it out. They are clearly not able to bring to bear the commercial, marketing and PR skills required. Besides that, they operate as individual fiefdoms and the only national body â Greyhounds Australasia â it noted more for what it does not do than what it does. Too often, greyhound authorities are hired or appointed as administrators, not modern business managers. Bureaucracies are all very fine and necessary things â and we need them,too – but they are no good at flogging stuff. They do not move with the times but simply react to them â as we have seen again here (which also explains why greyhound organisational structures have not changed over the past 50 years or so).
If that capacity is lacking then the industry must go outside to employ it. What is needed is an ongoing contract with a skilled PR/Marketing organisation to develop and push a national campaign to provide all that missing information, to demonstrate to the public all the positive aspects of the business, and to ensure that media people have easy access to data, ideas, concepts and contacts should they need it.
The code is now paying out around $100 million a year in stake money. To fund the contract it needs to take out 1% of that cash and invest it in the future. Thatâs about $15 out of the average prize. That would not only ensure the code is seen in a better light but it would undoubtedly return serious dividends over time as more people seeas an attractive recreation â whether as owners, trainers or punters, or even as workers. That sort of outcome will never be achieved by accident. It has to be built.
All states must put their shoulder to the wheel. Assign responsibility for the project to somebody with commercial nous and let them get on with it. Authorities need only to set it up, fund it and support it.
Something the ABC Missed
Marvellous to see old stager Burnt Fuse – 4 years 8 months – rack up its 37thÂ win from 97 starts at Ballarat, running a best-of-night 22.27 in doing it. And an equally smart 30.43 at Cranbourne by Rockadore at 4 years 2 months.
There should be more Veterans races in other states. They are all win-win, especially for owners. They would also do no harm to the industry image, given the nonsense being pushed at the moment by the ABC and so-called animal lovers, who come out of the woodwork on these occasions.
With an energetic national program organised, the opportunity would be there to tie it in with Masters series in other sports, just as the Miata-Black Caviar association returned huge dividends. The stories would be endless.
Go for it!
It’s taken the best part of 6 months, but the statutory body that controls GRNSW has a massive positive swab issue.in New South Wales has finally formally acknowledged the worst kept secret in the industry –
Even the Newcastle Herald managed to put the point in print before GRNSW even hinted there was a growing dilemma. This is even more condemning when you consider that GRNSW are habitual “tweeters”, have a borderline addiction to sharing on ; and employ a growing list of journalists/media and marketing types. The channels of communication for them are many and varied.
The silence from those bestowed with the integrity and governance of the industry surrounding the issue has been deafening. Jason Mackay had to publicly “give up” his colleagues to emphasise the fact that he isn’t the only leading trainer waiting on their regulatory body to drag itself up by the bootstraps and deal with the issue.
Even Mackay wasn’t sure of the numbers involved citing “maybe 30 or 40 trainers” waiting for authorities to get their integrity “house in order”. But those numbers, as devastating as they are; could be even larger given there is currently a national epidemic of positive swabs – (an issue we will deal with in another analysis).
A few months ago, whenran the numbers across in New South Wales, there were over 42 outstanding swabs that had not been reported as clear in New South Wales alone- some of them went right back to late 2012. Some may have been administration or “clerical” errors, but it was safe to say that there was more going on than “the new girl” not knowing how to do her job.
In GRNSW’s defence, the only reason we were able to run that analysis was that GRNSW do report when swab results “clear”. Somewhat obliquely though, they fail to report a swab anomaly. It is left to the user to “assume” an unreported clear swab has an irregularity. Surely commonsense and good governance dictates that it would cause less innuendo and “betting ring gossip” to be upfront and report the issue? But this is the modern reality of greyhounds racing’s version of “transparency”.
As dark as this would appear to be for those in New South Wales, GRNSW are light years ahead ofVictoria (GRV).
It should come as no surprise that the regulatory body that runs subject of an Racing Integrity Ombudsman inquiry in to their lack of governance and gambling employees, will only make mention of a swab being taken in a stewards report of a race meeting. Nothing is ever mentioned of the swab again. Its value as information for the public just evaporates in to the ether.in Victoria don’t even report the swabs they take in a format anyone could digest. The same group who were the
Unless the swab is positive, and then the job of joining the dots falls at the feet of the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board (RADB). The RADB will report a positive swab inquiry outcome, although often months after the initial incident. Apparently nothing noteworthy occurs in the intervening period between a swab being taken, and inquiry report being finalised.
It wasn’t that long ago that GRV did not even report its integrity issues online. Believe it or not, GRV sought to hide integrity issues from wider public scrutiny until 2010. It’s only the last few years that these results can be found online. GRNSW through its predecessor, GHRRA; had been publishing these results online since the early 2000′s. A fact that is hard to reconcile when the GRV once trumpeted itself as the leading greyhound body in Australia with regard to Information Technology (IT).
Disappointingly, Racing Queensland and Racing Tasmania both follow the Victorian trend of only reporting swab issues after the outcome of the inquiry.
South Australia (GRSA) and Racing And Wagering West Australia (RWWA) who are often maligned in industry circles, actually lead the industry in integrity and transparency with regard to stewards inquiries and positive swabs. They both publish and release notifications when swab irregularities arise, and then keep the interested public informed as the process evolves.
If you’re waiting for the same from GRNSW – they sometimes report a swab anomaly, sometimes they don’t. The mere fact some are reported and others not only serves to further industry speculation and fuels a perception of “rules for some”. When GRNSW do choose to report swab irregularities, it is usually only days before the inquiry is set to take place; a date which is often months after the fact.
And what of Victoria? Well you might as well be living in a world before the pre-industrial age. It’s as if an information vacuum the equivalent of Steven King’s dome has descended over theheadquarters. There will be no information forthcoming at all until after the RADB hearing is held; and then it can take weeks to months for that information to be relayed to the public. Presumably the pigeon struggles under the weight of the message it is delivering.
Given the constant spiel from the million dollar marketing machines of our regulatory bodies, morphing modest achievements and occasional complete fails into stunningly digestible and palatable media “bites”, there will always be a need for commentary and analysis uninfluenced by the spell of our statutory bodies.
From time to timeand its writers have themselves been maligned for not providing a “sugar & candy” analysis and coverage of Australian . The bare facts, the potential pitfalls, and the reality of some unsavoury incidents and issues has the capacity to become too much to bear for some.
While our regulatory bodies seek to hide from the transparency the industry deserves; and while they continue to put marketing concerns ahead of integrity issues; there will always be a need for an independent coverage of.
“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth” – Albert Einstein.
In 2012 the Victorian Ombudsman produced a report in relation to the integrity of Ombudsman’s Integrity Report.Victoria. The report, titled Victorian Ombudsman â Own Motion Investigation into Victoria June 2012 â is available in full on-line and makes for interesting reading. Unfortunately most participants probably have never heard of the report. Most wonât have read it. Everybody needs to :
The report highlighted the actions of those entrusted to run our great sport â their unprofessionalism and their actions that boarded on corruption.
The 7 main points are highlighted below â the report identified:
1. GRV staff were betting on greyhound races during work hours including those in integrity-related positions.
- One employee, a senior manager was found to have placed 4,409 bets over a three year period totalling $508,705 dollars during WORK TIME. Remarkably, when identified by the ombudsman, this employeeâs contract was not torn up nor were they marched out of the building in disgrace. They were issued with a first and final warning and in the months that followed they were given a $10,000 bonus and a pay rise. Eventually this employee left the GRV in March 2012.
- Then CEO John Stephens admitted to betting on greyhound races during work time
- 11 GRV staff were found to have been involved in betting during work hours including stewards: of these 11 people – 3 stewards were terminated, 1 received a first and final warning, 1 form analyst resigned, 1 form analyst was given a first and final warning, 2 graders were terminated, 2 senior managers given first and final warnings, and 1 data operator given a first and final warning.
2. GRV staff owned greyhounds â this presents integrity issues
- How can GRV staff assure participants that they are acting in a professional manner and with integrity to everyone? They have their own interests to consider.
- GRV would continually award contracts without the correct procedures being followed â staff including then CEO would use the same contractors for personal developments. This presents further integrity issues â we need to ensure that tenders are being awarded fairly â and in align with what the industry expects.
- The ombudsmanâs report highlighted that GRV staff failed to correctly record gifts and benefits. Whilst receiving gifts and benefits is not necessarily illegal â what is received needs to be recorded and be transparent â which is wasnât. This leads to allegations of corruption and other concerns regarding integrity.
- GRV would use corporate credit cards and funds to pay for a number of non-core business related expenses such as alcohol. Public servants have faced criminal prosecution for this type of activity.
- Staff found in breach of GRV policy by betting on greyhound races during work time were given a âgolden handshake.â GRV informed the industry that their positions where terminated. This again raises integrity issues.
- Staff employment conditions stipulated the use of work email and internet based programs. Staff were able to access betting sites during their shifts to place bets on races including . Emails sent to one another also contained content of a pornographic and explicit nature â again in breach of policy.
- 1. Racing in NSW can be controlled only by GRNSW under an Act of Parliament.
- 2. Queensland cannot control any racing in NSW, also under an Act of Parliament. Even if it wanted to, Queensland cannot rule on or supervise racing in NSW.
- 3. Two weekly TAB meetings are mooted – but run by whom? Tatts could offer away-betting facilities but is legally qualified to control Queensland racing sites only, not those in NSW. Tabcorp, which already controls betting at Border Park, has long said Saturday afternoon racing (Border Parkâs prime slot) cannot accommodate more races, especially not dog races. That policy is why at Newcastleâs Beaumont Park met its fate in the 1990s.
- 4. Border Park already has TAB facilities under an âauditoriumâ license (as at Randwick and Broadmeadows in Newcastle) which allows them to take bets even when local races are not being run.
- 5. NSW encouragement for this change is the height of hypocrisy â it was GRNSW which chopped back Border Park meeting numbers a couple of years ago, even though the region needed a boost following the closure of the Gold Coast track.
- 6. The broader region of SEQ and NSW Northern Rivers already sees a plentiful exchange of dogs amongst the five available tracks (including Casino and Lismore) so the only impact of this proposal would occur if Border Park prize money were to increase substantially.
- 7. Any extra prize money would require full TAB coverage which would have to come in an already overcrowded weekly program. Only two possibilities are available â first, to run races at breakfast time when most TAB shops are closed or, second, to jam then into a more popular slot and thereby split the available betting funds more thinly. The latter has already created a major problem for intending punters at other tracks. In the interests of the industry, neither option is practicable or desirable.
- 8. The Queensland state is already short of money and so is Racing Queensland â hence the longstanding dithering about building a new track.
- 9. Racing Queensland has shown no competence in running racing and is currently presiding over a decline in finance and standards across all three codes. It has already done back-flips over track expenditure and racing dates at Toowoomba, Caloundra and other provincial galloping locations. The imminent appointment of industry insiders to local boards is likely to make those problems worse.
- 10. The planâs support from the GRNSW CEO, who has no executive authority, must have emerged before checking with his board. His chairman is a lawyer and would certainly have seen the above blockages.
3. The Tender Processes and Practices of GRV
4. GRV lack of gift and hospitality declarations
5. Hospitality Expenditure
6. Staff were given termination payments
7. Staff use of email system
The ombudsman report identified a number of issues involvingin Victoria â some of which are still on-going and have not been adequately addressed. The report has identified a number of issues that affect all state authorities. Changes have occurred in Victoria and they needed to. We need to ensure that this keeps occurring â both here and throughout Australia. Everybody needs to read the ombudsmanâs report â changes needs to occur and integrity needs to be maintained.
The Australian Greyhound industry and the punting public need to have complete trust in those entrusted with the role of overseeing it. State authorities need to show that they are doing all they can to ensure integrity and transparency. Continuing on from our swabbing story last week â letâs take a further look at some other issues. There are countless others and everyone needs to raise their concerns.
GRV staff identified by the ombudsman are still employed by GRV. One questions how this can ensure integrity if some of these persons are still in charge of overseeing theindustry? If they have been found responsible of breaching GRV policies, then they were responsible for unethical behaviour. How can they still be employed in these positions?
One concern is the seeding of greyhounds into races. In blatant terms one could consider this a true example of race fixing. By seeding greyhounds, stewards are attempting to shape the fields and influence the outcome of a race. Of course in, things happen during a race, so why do we need greyhounds to be seeded? This is a quick fix that would improve transparency and integrity. No more greyhounds seeded into races, concerns addressed. Allegations that race fixing occurs disappears.
Box draws are a unique issues. It is all well and good to say that they are conducted by a computer. However computers can be programed to produce particular results under given circumstances. The fairest way to draw a race, and box draws is by the banjo system â which should be recorded or displayed online to ensure transparency and fairness to all.
The ombudsman report touched on the surface of an organisation failing to be managed in a manner that was expected of it by the industry that supported it. It was an unethical organisation.
Furthermore â the ombudsman report touched on the surface where the industry needs to dig deeper. The investigation needed to delve into the phone records of GRV staff and stewards identified in the investigation. Confidence and transparency needs to be built. When people entrusted with the administration of this industry are placing substantial bets of races it begs the question, âTo what extent are these people prepared to go to ensure they reap a benefit (reward) from their investment?â Letâs remember, it was these same people who were responsible for grading dogs into the races, seeding dogs into field and the box draw. They were also responsible for deciding which dogs were subjected to the swabbing process during a meeting.
By comparing betting records with telephone checks, investigators may be able to identify a particular pattern of bets between GRV staff and trainers. Was there any communication that would help identify a particular pattern? Can we conduct this inquiry to negate the risk that any trainers were involved?
Investigations need to be made to ensure that these issues didnât occur and indeed are not currently occurring. A formal inquiry should be conducted by experience investigators with sufficient experience and knowledge within the racing industry to ensure that these issues and more are completely investigated. This may require commission of inquiry powers to ensure such an investigation is successful. The persons identified in this report oversee the integrity of the industry, they are judge jury and executioner.
Similarly the process of determining which dogs are swabbed at a meeting needs to be overhauled. If officials have placed substantial bets on a particular dog and the trainer is made aware that the dog will not be subject of a swab, than the officials bet had a greater likelihood of success. The ombudsmanâs investigation did not delve deeply enough into the activities of those persons involved. Similarly, where were the offenders managers in this process, what role did they play and why did their supervision not detect this activity?
How do we stop this? While not saying that it does occur, letâs prove that it doesnât. Dogs that are to be swabbed on race night should be drawn randomly and in the public spectrum for all to see. All race winners should be swabbed. All swab results need to be published.
These are just five issues of many that need to be urgently addressed. The industry needs leadership and governance by corporate business professionals. Integrity needs to be built and participants need confidence that those in charge are doing everything they can to level the playing field. Victoria in particular would benefit from a Commission of Inquiry, and those that do the wrong thing are in turn held suitably accountable for their actions. These small few canât be allowed to damage the industry for all involved. Queensland has begun its Commission of Inquiry and industry participants are eagerly anticipating the findings.
The ombudsmanâs report touched on the surface concerns about GRV â but the findings relate to each state authority. We raised some issues â a few of many – and you are encouraged to raise your issues and concerns. Again, there is no proof that this has happened â but letâs eliminate any suggestion that it has, or it is currently occurring.
Do you like being confused?
Are you sick of things being straight forward and enjoy the feeling of frustration?
Then the unique sport ofis for you. Welcome to a world where bureaucracy and red tape are prevalent and where poorly trained people would rather waste your time and tell you misinformation than assist you or lead you on the right path.
Presuming it will be mainly greyhound folk reading this, then I am making the assumption this sarcastic opening will strike some sort of familiarity. But in case it doesnât, then I say âgather around kiddiesâ and let me tell you the story of âOllieâ and his lovely dealings with the people that run our industry.
Ollie lives in South Australia, however his beloved racing-now-brood bitch has found a nice home with his trusty trainer in regional Victoria. A common scenario one would think, however that line of thought is questioned when Ollie decides he wants to breed a litter.
Being the first time Ollie has ventured into the breeding game, he rests in comfort knowing the trusty trainer is more than happy to spend the time and energy whelping and rearing, so it just comes down choosing a sire. After some careful decision making, one is chosen, but with the sire based in Victoria (as so many are) the vial gets transferred to the trainers preferred vet.
From there it seems like smooth sailing. Brood has the procedure, and nine weeks later, two happy, healthy black puppies are on the ground. Happy days.
However things seem strange when Ollie realises that not one bit of paper was signed, not one phone call, email or other received to register the litter with anyone. So Ollie takes the initiative, and calls GRV to investigate.
Once the GRV employee gathers some basic information, they advise that they have no record of the service taking place, and that they will askSouth Australia (GRSA) to contact him and get that information, as he is a registered person with them, not GRV.
After three days of no action, another call to GRV takes place, particularly wondering why GRSA need to be involved when everything relating to the litter happened across the border.
âOh thatâs not correctâ Ollie gets told by a different GRV employee. âGreyhounds Australasia supplies the service informationâ.
Interesting to get two pieces of different info from the same source isnât it? Regardless, GA receive the next call.
âWe are waiting for paperwork from when the breeding unit was bought. Usually the vet collects that and passes it on, so you may want to chase it up with themâ. GA explain.
They could have offered to do it for him, but nonetheless Ollie scrounges through the receipts to find the trainersâ vetsâ number and phone call number four takes place.
âWe only get a copy of that information and we never pass anything on to GA.â He is told. âYou were supposed to obtain an original copy of the transfer-of-ownership form provided by the stud master, and then submit it GA immediately.â
It is at this point in time Ollie realises this has become a debacle. Five phone calls to four different offices have resulted in Ollie being misled not once, but twice, and now having to chase paperwork he didnât even know existed, for a service that occurred ten weeks ago, and only after he made an unprompted enquiry himself. One would think that somewhere along the line the breeder, the trusty trainer, GRV or maybe even GA would have lent some assistance and said âHey, do you know about this?â â Nope – Only a conversation with a veterinary receptionist made things clearer and allowed things to get back on track.
But if only that was the end of the debacle. Five days after finally lodging the correct form with GA, does the phone ring â itâs GRSA.
âWe require to know which sire has been purchased and where in S.A. the whelping will take place?â
They sounded less than impressed when Ollie told them the litter was already whelped entirely in Victoria one week earlier.
They sounded even less impressed when Ollie got a little mad once he received a SECOND phone call from GRSA two days later, asking the same thing!
So the tally is now up to five phone calls made, two calls received and all for a process that was meant to occur nearly three months ago. What an easy thing this greyhound game isâŚ
Remember kiddies, these bodies are apparently designed to support the industryâs participants. So letâs see how many new people will scramble to get involved when they read stories like mineâŚ. errâŚ I mean OllieâsâŚ and the hundreds more that Iâm sure exist out there.
For what itâs worth, I wonder if âRed Tape Runaroundâ will make a good racing name?
Grigorieva Baleâs fine but surprising win in the Golden Easter Egg, one of the most lucrative races on the Australian calendar, was a terrific effort â Paul Wheeler again! It has not been the most consistent dog in the country but it does take you back a year to the time when as a raw puppy it set the Bendigo track record of 23.42. Funnily enough, Slater, winner of the Egg in 2007, had a similar history.
Anyway, that party is over and the hard slog starts again.
There are differing opinions about how wellis going. Now is a good time to have a look at the industry in two ways: what is happening week to week for the rest of the year, and what can we look forward to in the long term.
Already we have Tasmania and NSW struggling for money and Queensland struggling for everything. WA and SA are marking time, just as the countryâs dog population has been doing for the last decade or more. Victoria is doing OK financially following big changes in the sharing of TAB commissions and grants from a kindly government (having a Racing Minister who is not only a vet but also in the Premierâs chair is unique). Radical changes are taking place in the customer profile as TABs manufacture more and more mug gamblers to replace the form students of yesteryear. So, too with race programs, which are now stuffed to overflowing with good, ordinary and just plain bad dogs in unpredictable ways.
In the end, the package does not do justice to the racing public, to a skilled set of trainers, to the breed, or to the big advances made in behind-the-scenes technology in recent times. We are not making the best of our raw materials. We can do better. We must look for fresh ideas.
Here is an example of a different way of looking at the big picture.
Paul Kelly, Editor-at-Large at The Australian, wrote the other day about âLaborâs Tragedy: a lack of strategy to govern for allâ. You might consider this drawing a long bow but there is a remarkable similarity between how the country has been governed and the progress, or lack of it, in the racing industry. Forget political preferences for the moment and consider the similarities.
PK: There is âa crisis over Laborâs policy and strategic directionâ
Racing has never really had a strategic direction, never mind words included in pretty documents published every few years by state authorities. Largely, racing strives only to do a bit better than last year. At the club level the major, or maybe the only, objective is to survive. Neither gives you a thrill or an incentive to join in.
PK: There is âa belief that the Gillard government is derailed and has failed to build on the Hawke-Keating legacyâ.
Racing in the 1980s delivered into the modern era a pattern of strong local involvement and big attendances at racecourses. The advent of SKY brought more cash but also pushed the above two factors into the background. Eventually, the new system failed to replace those committed crowds and started relying on impulse purchases by mug gamblers. Racing never really adjusted to new circumstances.
PK: âRudd and his close supporter, Chris Bowen, believe that sweeping internal reforms are essential for Laborâs survivalâ.
Racing hasnât smelt a whiff of any reforms; rather it prefers to hold on to traditional systems and processes, risking decline or even suicide to do so (witness the aggressive and emotional opposition to the arrival of NT bookies and).
PK: âLabor must change. It cannot see itself as a party defined by its institutional ties with the trade unions. Such a narrow definition dooms Laborâs futureâ.
For some time now racing has been tied to the apron strings of TABs, which effectively control race coverage and programs. Recent breakouts have been helpful at the margin yet still serve to emphasise the continuing dominance of the TABs with their monopoly licenses over most betting. Unfortunately, the TABsâ objectives are different to those of racing â quantity is beating out quality.
PK: âThe sharpest point in (Laurie) Fergusonâs resignation speech was his lament that Gillard is not governing for all Australiansâ.
Racing authorities largely concentrate on administering the needs of participants at the expense of adjusting to developments in the outside world where customers live, work and play. That huge night last year involving Miataâs attempt at the Sandown Cup was an exception that proves the rule.
PK: âGillardâs divide and rule tactic is casting Labor into an entrenched minority positionâ.
Differences, or even disputes, between states are perennial barriers to progress and timely action. The national body is ineffectual, refusing to address commercial or consumer matters, and operating in great secrecy.
PK: âIndividual ministers, mostly, are smart and diligent, but the total is much less than the sum of the partsâ.
All racing management â club, state and national – is legally in the control of committees, with varying but unknown levels of responsibility assigned to senior staff. Such a policy encourages mediocrity and discourages innovation and strong leadership.
PK: âLabor … has been all over the place with confused priorities, poor decision-making and sudden improvisationsâ.
Racing conditions vary extensively from state to state, as do their finances, field standards, track qualities and level of government support. Each state makes up its own local rules. Policies lack economic justification.
PK: âLabor, as ever, awaits a political messiah with the answersâ.
Should racing find such a leader, it would make no difference. The current system would grind him down. We must first change the system.
From the publicâs viewpoint, all the above will matter little after September when Labor will disappear into the wilderness, no doubt still arguing on the way out. But it matters a lot to racing which has already ceded genuine control of the industry to outsiders â mostly to TABs and other betting agencies but also to state governments who lack either the objectivity or the will, or both, to modernise racing structures.
Remember also that those TABs operate under detailed rules set up by Premiers, Treasurers and Racing Ministers. It is a classic case of governments meddling with businesses they know little about in a climate where wagering itself regularly comes under threat from moralising opponents and animal activists. To governments, racing is simply a cash cow which must be watched closely lest the mafia take over. It survives because most Australians donât mind an occasional flutter and because the big end of town has influence (albeit thatâs mostly to do with horses, not dogs).
Like Labor, racing must re-invent itself in order to achieve a different and more favourable attitude from the general public and to be able to adopt commercial practices which allow it to compete in a tough world.
A good starting point: repackage the image of the greyhound breed. Thatâs not a simple task but it is a necessary first step.
More information has come to hand on the proposal to shift the operation of racing at Border Park at Tweed Heads to Queensland jurisdiction (see Weed on the Tweed, 8 March).
GRNSW now advises that it has the full endorsement of the NSW board, something which was not mentioned in the original media release.
Hello! What are these guys smoking?
It will not happen, and for a large number of reasons.
The tragedy of all this kerfuffle is that the national racing package would be enhanced if a well-built, one-turn track were to emerge at Border Park. But there are two provisos. The region does not have enough good dogs to justify that plan at the moment. The cart has been put before the horse.
Secondly, full TAB coverage of the new meetings would have to occur as a replacement of existing meetings. Otherwise, finances will suffer somewhere else. Who will accept that?
The greyhound codeâs major need is not to add more tracks or more meetings to the calendar but to make a better job of those that already exist. The starting point would be the development of a bigger pool of customers with fresh money.
A few weeks ago the consultative committee to GRSA voted to ask the authority to cut normal prize money and divert the difference to races limited to SA-domiciled dogs.
Thatâs not much different to preferences in other states. In NSW, for example, the authority surveyed breeders to see if they would like to get bonuses for winners they bred. Amazingly, they all said yes, so thatâs what they got. All states now have incentives for locally bred dogs, which then generates a bragging contest â my bonuses are better than your bonuses. In Victoria the Minister recently put out a media release announcing even bigger bonuses, saying they would boost local breeding and create new employment. Really? Iâd like to see that!
(You might also ask why the Minister is getting involved in payments to participants rather than letting the authority do its job. Me, too. So much for âarmâs lengthâ oversight of his portfolio. Some support is nice, too much fiddling is not).
The short answer to all this is that itâs garbage. But there is more to it than that.
There is no evidence that state incentives do any good, much less achieve whatever it is they are looking for. Indeed, their actual objectives are never stated. Nor are their results. They serve only to divert cash away from some winners and give it to others.
But not only do they achieve nothing, they also have negative impacts.
In SA, for example, the effect would be to discourage better dogs from visiting the state. Instead, inferior local dogs would be encouraged, thereby lowering standards across the state, which is the opposite of what SA needs. In turn, punters would have less incentive to patronise SA races (and donât forget that SA income depends partly on betting from Queensland and the NT, via Tatts).
While it has always been that way to some degree, the industry is now besotted with looking after bad dogs â unfortunately to the extent of putting the end product at risk. It may be understandable for an owner or trainer to try to get the best result for his charges but for a state authority to go too far in that direction is simply bad business. Sadly, it has adopted a local version of the Marie Antoinette solution â if they have no bread then âlet them eat cakeâ.
In Victoria, the practice also ignores a major reason for the prominence of good dogs in many of its local fields. Thatâs because NSW and Queensland owners, including Paul Wheeler, sent them there for reasons which have nothing to do with breeding. Three of last Saturdayâs Superstayers field and two of the Australian Cup field were registered interstate. So were another eighteen in other races at The Meadows.
In breeding terms, a discriminatory approach encourages owners to select dogs which may not be the best match for their bitches.
Everywhere, owners who are not on the gravy train are getting less prize money than they might normally expect, which is hardly a boost to future purchasing habits.
In any event, the purpose of a subsidy â assuming it is justified in the first place â is to help those worse off to get through a bad time, or overcome a short term problem. And a âgoodâ subsidy always has a sunset clause because circumstances will change as time passes. No such clauses exist in Australian greyhounds.
Further, there is no evidence that breeders are doing it tough. On the contrary, there is a case that breeding is the most efficient and profitable area of the greyhound industry and should be left alone. After all, aside from the incentives, it is subject to the normal effects of market forces where seller and buyer establish a relationship which satisfies both.
Those who might want to point out that the incentives did not affect their decisions are simply emphasising that they should never have been there in the first place.
More subtly, breeding subsidies are counter-productive as they create a false environment. They might give bragging rights to administrators who bring them in, but they are of no help in generating more income for the industry, which is what pays all the wages. In other words, they are bad business policies. Get rid of them and start again.
Separately, subsidies for distance races are all the fashion today. Thatâs not necessarily a bad thing as there is plenty of evidence that distance racing is on the wane. Too few dogs are readily able to get the 700m-plus trips. Too many starters tend to be dogs whose only qualification is that they are not competitive over shorter races. But the solution has been to give existing dogs more money and, presumably, hope that miracles will occur.
This is muddled thinking. If a dog canât run out 700m then no amount of money is going to make it do so. In other words, the idea of incentives was fine but the plans were misdirected. It seems that no-one bothered to analyse why good stayers had become scarce. It does not need rocket science to guess that breeding patterns must have had something to do with it yet, so far, that area has attracted no attention.
Remember that 700m is down at the far end of the breedâs capability. Few will fit in to that category at the best of times. On average, a greyhoundâs speed peaks at around 440m, after which itâs usually a matter of which one is slowing most (thundering finishes are often an optical illusion). Itâs a point which needs expert attention.
Staying sires (if we can define them as that) are notoriously difficult to sell, even at giveaway prices. Buyers are mad keen on pups that will spear out of the boxes and pick up cash for short races. Even the Wheelers are in that camp, as evidenced by their long stream of top sprinters. Itâs also why recent times have seen a substantial increase in sub-350m races (ie more pandering to bad dogs), and many more over 400m than was the case previously.
The odd sire offers an each way bet. Token Prince is an obvious one but, alas, he is no longer with us. Bombastic Shiraz is another (NB Miata) although you would not have known that in advance, would you? But they are few and far between. Anyway, I lack the ability to delve much further into that subject so I can do no more than call on Australian authorities to start investing punterâs money in projects that offer some hope of success in the medium to long term.
Yet another blind survey of existing operators would not be the way to go. For every ten of those you will get 11 different opinions anyway. The starting point would be a serious independent investigation into breeding trends over time. (Although I have to point out that the latest budding star, Destini Fireball, is half-American and comes from a very successful litter of 12. Apart from that, note that none of the starters in last Saturdayâs Superstayers final had sires with any experience of staying races. They were all top dogs but only over the sprints. Perhaps itâs mum that counts).
As for those consultative committees, be wary. They are there because state governments require them for all instrumentalities for which they are responsible. They seldom produce much, and are often ignored anyway, but they should be limited to matters which suit their abilities and are related to racing operational subjects. Never to business matters, especially those which affect their own hip pockets.
New laws covering the establishment of Queenslandâs four-board racing structure have now been inked in by Racing Minister Steve Dickson. A chairman and two members will control each of the three codes, in turn reporting to an over-riding board of five to run the state. The big board will include the chairman of each code. It will also make all the serious decisions.
This is a whole new world for Australian racing, not just because of the odd structure but the way the members will be appointed.
At a time when sporting organisations are universally trying to modernise their practices, and especially to relate to their public, Queensland has gone in the other direction. Itâs summed up by one of the qualifications required of applicants for the new jobs: âall applicants for a board position must hold the endorsement of an industry licensee, a race club, racing association or association related to promoting the relevant code of racing prior to being considered for appointmentâ, demands the Minister.
Continue reading Queensland Rejects Progress
Prize money increases are the talk of the town at the moment, but particularly in Queensland where there is much discussion about how much should go where. Head of the list is an additional low-class meeting for Ipswich but there are modest changes proposed elsewhere, including some improvements for the battling provincial clubs up the coast.
On the other hand, the Brisbane club wants to see even more races because, according to CEO Luke Gatehouse, âin excess of 150 greyhounds are not required in SEQ each weekâ.
This is a strange demand for a number of reasons.
Continue reading Upside-Down Policies
presents a huge contrast between old and new.
As âChasing Dreamsâ reminds us (available via GRV), clubs have been hugely dependent on the work of willing volunteers for their very survival. Without them, the sport may well have died out, and with it the breed as we know it. Yet progressively since the 1960s, and particularly since SKY boosted income in the 1990s, it has become more and more dependent on cash from people the club has never heard of and will never meet.
The first dollar to an off-course TAB changed everything. Except the willing workers.
Continue reading What Can We Afford?
Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the bubble of the localised greyhound world, with usually the same people with the same team of dogs showing up at the tracks and trials each week. Since the inception of the tote, and then later live televised racing, the racetrack itself has lost much of its appeal to those not directly involved with the day-to-day operations.
It has now got to the point where it can almost feel isolating being there, watching those transport greyhounds to the same empty tracks several times per week. Also, with the relationships between owner and trainer growing more distant, remembering the public impact that trainers/handlers can is now truly hard to recognise.
As the Nationals approaches each year, we do get that awakening that the Australian greyhound industry is really all one entity, and not made up of spasmodic clusters of people working kilometres apart.
However, one thing that we all probably fail to realise is the far reaching audience that our sport can attract. Technology is a wonderful thing nowadays, and folks from far and wide have the capacity to be exposed to things they werenât ten years ago. This is something that may seem very hard to perceive for those putting on the lead and collars each and every day.
Continue reading The World Wants to Watch â But Can We See It?
Recently I wrote to a government department asking it to change my records â primarily about a change of address. It rejected the letter, instead sending me a form to fill out. I did that, although the form contained less information than I had put in my letter. They then sent me letter saying that my details were now what I had just told them they were.
I would estimate that, from go to whoa, that department spent well over $100 in dealing with me. Had someone initially tapped in a few keystrokes and gone on to the next job it might have cost, say, $10 or so. So much for how bureaucracies work.
All racing authorities are bureaucracies.
Continue reading What’s In A Title?
The picturesque country around Towcester in Northamtonshire in the UK is home to a Lord Esketh who donated part of his estate and some of his cash to form a jumps racing club run by a profit-making company. It races a dozen or so times each year, attracting crowds of 4,000 to 5,000, helped by free admission to all but a couple of feature days.
It has done fairly well but in recent times it has become harder to turn a profit, just as it has for many other horse and dog tracks in the UK. Bookies paying smaller taxes after decamping to offshore locations is one problem (Unibet, which sponsors The Gardens, is based in Malta). The Guardian newspaper reports that âwhile attendance figures at British racecourses have remained steady despite the economic slowdown,has not fared so well, with tracks closing or slimming down operationsâ.
In a startling move, Towcester will run against the tide by creating a greyhound track in the middle of the horse circuit and bringing in new fans, so improving its profitability. It hopes to get this going later in the year. The Guardian points out that âtracks with a strong local following remain successful and the management at Towcester believe that, despite their rural location between Northampton and Milton Keynes, crowds of 1,000 or more could be attracted to weekly meetings on Saturday eveningsâ.
Continue reading Sign Of The Times?
Racing people please note: running big sport is becoming a target for change.
The unlikely duo of Labor powerbroker Mark Arbib and General Peter Cosgrove (both retired?) is looking into the governance of Rugby Union. Cricket is still thinking about whether the old-timers should give up their God-given right to rule (for the uninitiated, that means NSW and Victoria) in favour of a more democratic setup. Soccer is in a constant state of flux between billionaire Frank Lowy and billionaire club owners.
But the most dramatic of all has been the dumping of its apparently successful CEO David Gallop by the newly formed ARL Commission â an independent group headed by chairman John Grant, a former player and now successful businessman.
Continue reading Rugby League Commission Fails Its First Test
Queensland is out looking for answers but it does not seem to have worked out the questions yet.
Kevin Dixon, the pro-tem boss of Racing Queensland, comes from a racing family and was recently chairman of the Brisbane Racing Club. He has promised a completely different approach to that of his predecessor (Bob Bentley), and wants greyhound participants to âbe able to come to the governing body with a problemâ. Thatâs nice but what does it mean and how will it help?
A further confusion arises as the new structure is to comprise âstatutory bodies controlling each of the codes under one Board of Directorsâ. Thatâs four organisations replacing one, which replaced three. Sounds both expensive and messy. Time will tell.
Continue reading Good Bloke, Wrong Message
One of my earliest memories ofwas at Harold Park, arguably then and still the finest example of a one-turn track.
A big striding dog, very often down from the Hunter Valley, would be motoring along in the centre of the track and then cut down on the hill on the back turn to run to the lead. The mob would roar, all 15,000 of them. The banking on the grass surface was superb, giving the dog the means to do what it was born to do.
Freeways do much the same thing, asking only for a light touch on the wheel to take a bend safely. Banking is of the order of 6 degrees. The radius is quite large, but the principle is the same.
Continue reading Highway Engineers Could Help
âUncertainty and expectation are the joys of lifeâ. William Congreve, 1695.
Lots of joy must be ahead for Australian. Change is everywhere. Probably a good thing, too, so long as racing gets its house(s) in order.
Âˇ Racefield fees are in a state of flux following the Racing NSW win in the High Court. Everyone is rushing to the negotiating table. Bookmakers are adjusting.
Âˇmust be struggling a bit. Like the TABs, it is now pushing hard into the bookmaking sector. Apparently, more and more people like the caper.
Âˇ Tabcorp has just done deals in Victoria and, presumably, will have another go at combining its NSW and Victorian operations, previously torpedoed by a short sighted NSW Minister (or was it his department?) The Victorian government is sorting out new TAB contracts.
Âˇ New owner Tatts has revamped Tastote online and cut back some information flows. Not the end of the world but annoying. Tatts will also need a new boss when Dick McIlwain retires soon.
Âˇ Country wide, authorities are revamping computer facilities as NSW joins the WA system, soon to be accompanied by other states, but not Victoria. Form and race results are up for grabs, as is the availability of that form to the public. Will it be like the thoroughbred codeâs RISA? Some hope! And the stud book is under the wing of Greyhounds Australasia, helped by GRV, so what will happen there?
Âˇ Historical Note: The first effort to combine computer form resources took place in 1994, when Victoria tried to convince other Greyhounds Australasia (then ANZGA) members to adopt a common approach. NSW knocked it on the head for very peculiar and parochial reasons. The bloke responsible for that push was none other than Adam Wallish, then offsider to Victorian CEO, the late Ken Carr. Adam was subsequently CEO in NSW, then ran hockey back in Victoria and is now a board member at GRV. Interesting! No idea what team he supports but it is probably not St Kilda.
Âˇ The Queensland upheaval continues apace but all we know so far is that greyhounds will have a separate board. Will there be any other changes to the organisational structure, and to how the members will be picked â hopefully independently? And will they fund the new Logan site, as promised? Not sure. Will it be professionally designed? Not sure either. The last lot (at Deagon) had no greyhound experience but, then, who does?
Âˇ In the not too distant past, SA and Tasmania made changes to either their boards, their structures or their CEOs, while NSW is bedding down a fresh board. Likewise for Victoria, which has had a couple of board changes recently and where CEO John Stephens, a huge influence, is to bow out in the middle of the year.
Âˇ Victoria, under the same John Stephens, has long been the only state to actively address the need to improve tracks (although not the two city tracks). Shortcomings in other states deter punters and invite attention from anti-racing lobbies, already noisy about whips and jumps at the gallops. Is there an enlightenment in the offing?
Âˇ Two governments have changed colour recently, more will follow.
Âˇ And poor old GWA CEO, David Simonette, is watching all this from his sick bed in Perth while they try to work out when, if or how Cannington dogs will move to a new location and if they can make any money under the new fee regime (small states usually have to pay out more than they get in). Still, RWWA racing chief Ken Norquay, a former Penrith boy, is there to steady the ship. Go the Panthers!
Amidst all this to and fro, letâs hope the new brooms try to modernise the set up at Greyhounds Australasia. We donât need advisors. We need someone to be in charge. Courage and statesmanship are required.
Nowhere is a strong, unified voice more essential than in a campaign to bring about a national betting pool, something which would hugely benefit greyhound turnover and profits. Most pools are already too small for sensible betting and are regularly distorted by the ever-increasing content of mug gamblers and Mystery bets.
At different times we have heard a range of people speak in favour of the national pool, including Tatts itself and former NSW Racing Minister Richard Face (following an industry review). Tabcorp wants to combine its NSW and Victorian pools anyway so going national is only a small step after that. So why is it not happening?
Sadly, no one is in charge. State governments all have different approaches to any given subject. There is an Australian Racing Ministers Council but it suffers from the same disease as each of the racing codes â they all nod wisely at the annual meeting but then take home the question to bandy around with colleagues. Especially with the Treasurer, who may or may not know anything about racing.
You can call it a non-decision-making process. Even if they agree, it takes months or even years before anything happens, and then it appears in fits and starts (just like the arrival of the green rug at the dogs).
Ideally, it is time governments bought out of the subject completely. They are in there only because they passed laws to licence and protect TABs and â supposedly â to ensure a continuing flow of taxes. That particular obligation ceases as TAB licenses are renewed (ie from now on). The days of combating SP bookies on street corners and keeping out the mafia are long gone. Anyway, such things are the job of the police, not a government which pretends to be at armâs length, but never is.
Most of that is ancient history but there is ample evidence that governments are never any good at second guessing what commercial organisations should or should not do. Pork barrelling usually comes out on top. A good case could be mounted that tax revenue would improve if private enterprise â or any sort of enterprise – had an open go at running racing.
In any case, all businesses pay taxes so why pick out racing for special handling? Licensing is one thing, poking your nose into everyday life is quite another.
Of course, the parallel assumption would be that each of the codes themselves set up responsible and authoritative national organisations. If racing canât run its own shops efficiently, how can it expect governments to let them loose?
The Racing NSW victory on racefield fees in the High Court last week is much more than a matter of dollars. Especially as it follows a comparable High Court decision over a year ago to throw out the WA governmentâs attempt to ban.
Both cases had threatened to destabilise the industry, one to deny a racing authority the means to do its job, the other to over-ride the will of the people â ie racingâs customers. But, while all that is now history, the welfare of the industry demands that it consider why these events happened, and create structures which encourage progress and efficiency rather than expensive legal battles.
To do that, itâs necessary first to go back in time.
Continue reading Once Bitten, Twice Shy – Now Is The Time For Reform
Victorian Racing Minister Napthine and GRV Chairman Caillard have been busy announcing a joint $2.8 million allocation to breeding incentives over the next four years. This is not new â just a continuation of previous policies but it sounded good and occupied a full page of the media release.
The Minister makes much of where the money will go â obviously only to Victorian-bred dogs â but does nothing to justify why it is necessary and how it will improve the bottom line in the long haul. He also claims it will also boost jobs (have we heard that before?) but does not explain how that will happen. Since the country is not producing any more dogs – and has not for 20 years – it beggars belief that more people will be needed to breed them or look after them.
In fact, neither in Victoria or anywhere else have governments or racing authorities ever produced any evidence that breeding incentives are worthwhile. Indeed, there are several negative aspects to them.
Continue reading Meat Pies, Holden Cars And …..
Thereâs nothing like a bit of corporate spin to make the world go round. Especially in racing where, viewed from one angle, it is little more than a long line of tipsters, all anxious to grab a piece of whatever punting you are doing.
Champion Profits is a tipster. For $97 a month (or $400 upwards for a dayâs instruction) they will put you on the road to success. Better value is what you should be chasing, and so on, and we will show you how to get it. Well, good luck to them, too.
But Champion Profits is run by two highly skilledtypes, or so they tell us. Its main man, Scott Woodward, has just sent out a media release warning all and sundry about the dire fate that will hit the industry if the High Court tomorrow rules in favour of the Racing NSW bid to wrap up its 1.5% turnover-based race fields fee. Woodward warns it will lead to horrible losses, even closures, in the corporate bookie ranks and to the rebirth of illegal bookies. Racing will be the loser. All said with a straight face.
Continue reading High Court Race Fields Decision To Start Industry Reform?
What with dams, floods and elections, Queensland is now dominating the news. Racing Queensland chief Bob Bentley is taking advantage of the timing to press his case â and his boardâs â for continuing in the job, no doubt because the LNP opposition has threatened to dump both should it gain power on the 24th of March. His seven-page media release on March 15 sharply criticises plans to split up the existing RQL organisation, using the words in our headline.
Bentley is currently also chair of the gallopsâ Australian Racing Board.
Fortunately, everybody is in favour of building the new greyhound complex at Logan, to the southwest of Brisbane â and finance has been assured. Thatâs a plus but no-one has quite worked out what to do with Albion Park, now owned jointly by harness and greyhound codes, partly because the trots refuse to disappear as requested.
Continue reading “Madness” And “Idiotic” Says Bentley
Queensland trends are not easy to fathom. For example, last Monday at the second rated meeting of the week at Albion Park, we saw a string of quick times recorded. Five of the ten races were for Maidens or Novices yet they all got under 30.50, which was not much slower than the graded races. The track was on the quick side but it still suggests promising youngsters are on the way.
Thatâs a puzzle as for years the state has been running short of dogs. Some of the better ones have been going south for more lucrative opportunities while many nick over the border to NSW northern rivers tracks. These days, the main Albion Park Thursday meeting features at least two Novice races, a practice unheard of a few years back.
Following the demise of Parklands at the Gold Coast, authorities dispatched one weekly date to Townsville, but later added back Wednesday and Sunday meetings at Albion Park. However, short races dominate those programs, including the newly constructed 331m trip at Albion Park.
Continue reading Short Cuts Miss The Big Picture
The current debate about running maidens in premium events â usually age classics â skips over some of the major issues. Not the least of those is that the quoted ârulesâ preventing this are those of the AGRA, which is a grouping of major clubs. Its main function â an important one – is to sort out a national calendar for feature events.
But racing rules are fundamentally the responsibility of Greyhounds Australasia and, if absolutely necessary, of the individual state authorities. Already thatâs one too many. To add a third is to invite trouble. The system needs cleaning up.
Indeed, it points up the inadequacy of the GA organisation itself. (For GA membership and objectives, see galtd.org.au). It has no power of its own and depends on member states taking any mutually agreed action. It does some useful internal work (naming, stud book, etc) but often it functions as no more than a post office. Nor is it accountable to a government or the public. Its agenda and the results of its deliberations are usually kept secret. As such, it compares badly with the structure of most other sporting organisations.
Continue reading No Maidens, Please
Last weekâs discussion about professional punters â or one of them anyway â led into an assessment of how the business of racing is turning out. In the main, that has meant addressing trends in betting turnover (not great) and how changes might help down the track.
However, it would be remiss not to talk about the production side of the industry, if only to present some balance to the discussion. So, what goes into the effort that ends up placing eight dogs in their boxes, ready to race?
In the first place, there is the dog itself. The public barely know it but the greyhound breed is unique in the purity of its ancestry and its versatility â a noblemanâs hunting companion, a job as a kangaroo chaser to help SA farmers keep the interlopers out of their crops, coursing with live and now mechanical lures, gymkhanas and shows, and then its major current role in chasing that lure around a racetrack. And, of course, the modest but very worthwhile retired greyhound programs.
Continue reading Assest Rich, Income Ordinary
The other day my 8-year old grandson, Johnno, took my photo while we were lunching near the beach. He had grabbed his fatherâs mobile phone, pointed it, pressed the button and that was it. Later he e-mailed the photo to me. The colour and the composition were great on screen, despite lots of variables in the original background lighting.
At just about the same moment Eastman Kodak was going into bankruptcy in America. That dynamo of film and photography throughout the 20th century could no longer cope. Films had become old hat. The Kodak Brownie or shots taken on the moon using Kodak film are no more than memories.
Oddly, it was Kodak that invented the digital camera in the first place but the boardâs corporate strategy preferred to concentrate on its long profitable film products, and left others to develop digital devices to the degree we know today. But Kodak got its priorities wrong and is now paying the price. Employees are out on the street and the company is trying to sell off the bits and pieces.
Continue reading Taking A Shot
NSW is often trumpeting what it has done to promote distance racing and âCâ class country meetings, where we hear about extra turnover but never about extra costs, including a drop in takings at neighbouring higher class meetings.
700m racing at NSW provincials is still rare (Richmond aside) and likely to remain so. They just do not have the dogs to measure up so the program was always doomed to fail. The proverb is an oldie but a goodie: âYou canât make a silk purse out of a sowâs earâ. But more of that at another time.
The interesting story is at Grafton, a relative newcomer to the TAB ranks (ie aside from its annual carnival), which picks up whatever lunch time spot is available on Thursday or Friday.
Continue reading Promotion, Perhaps?
is struggling under six layers of management: the club, state authority staff, state management boards, a national industry body, a collection including the Racing Minister, the racing department and other government interests, and the national Racing Ministers Council. And then there is a long list of local councils running shotgun over much of what happens. Thatâs a lot of people to get through to bring about any reform of the industry. But it must be done.
Reform is a welcome challenge for entrepreneurs, who relish the opportunity to try something new, to open up new frontiers, to create more interest, to increase efficiency. NT bookies are entrepreneurs. So, indeed, are dog trainers.
Continue reading Can It Be Fixed?…….Yes…….But,…..
Last weekâs item on Racingâs Corporate Challenge suggested that the industryâs prime source of income â betting commission â was on shaky ground, mostly because average product quality had declined and mug gamblers had replaced serious punters. Any nominal increases in income in recent times could be put down to extra meetings rather than more enthusiasm for ânormalâ races.
So what are we doing about it?
On three key issues â track standards, field quality and breeding trends â itâs hard to see any concerted effort by the industry to improve performance. A bit here and a bit there really doesnât count in the long run because greyhounds have long since moved into a âdogs without bordersâ mode. Itâs a sport more and more dominated by national and international factors. Wherever the bunny moves, dogs will come to compete. And todayâs customers often do not know where the race is being run anyway.
Continue reading The Triple Whammy