RACING ‘S KING OF SPIN FINALLY FLIPS OUT.
Racing, yet again, has demonstrated that it just cannot match it with the real pros when it comes to the art of marketing and promoting itself successfully while articulating its strengths and weaknesses to an increasingly savvy, literate and discriminating audience prepared no longer to accept what is stated and presented to them on face value as fact.
The most recent evidence in what has become a recurring nightmare for Australian racing was an interview on Radio Sports National (yes bleak city’s inaccurately named sports radio station), with racing’s most notorious spin doctor Peter “The Not So Great” V’landys, CEO of Racing NSW, which we dealt with from a different perspective last Wednesday.
From some of the recent interviews and podcasts we have listened to, and from reading recent media commentary, it is clear that the Aussie racing media just does not ask the hard and inconvenient questions of the likes of V’Landys and “Toffee Tongue” McGauran that they should and must.
For all their tough talk, they suffer from George Costanza-type shrinkage and become cowering, fawning groupies and corporate PR people.
It’s almost a No Go zone and these j-j-j-j-jive talking biggies who know the basics of “spin”, and are skilled at using their appearances and interviews to duck and weave around every issue, secure in the knowledge that the blow torch is never, ever applied to their unsightly bellies.
V’landys and McGauran are cut from the same cloth. They are skilled in the art of “spinning” though a zillion milky ways away from the skills of the king of spin himself- the great, one and only Shane Warne.
The problem with V’Landys and McGauran is that they are just so very transparent.
They just glow in the dark as if having visited a plutonium plant with their pathetic and amateurish attempts at tap dancing their way through issues.
When put under the scrutiny that the racing media should and just don’t do, V ’Landys’s interview with Shane Anderson demonstrated the total hollowness of every response and every piece of spin put forward to articulate the Racing NSW (correction: V’Landys) policy on racing issues at a NSW and national level.
V’landys is well known for his strident defence of all things Tabcorp. Hell, they’ve got a 90 odd year licence for pari-mutuel wagering in NSW. But, V’landys, always the defender of the “fifty cent punter”, bowled Anderson over with the heart strings anecdote about how he fought Tabcorp to get the “jolly green giant” to ditch their proposal to jack up the minimum bet from 50 cents to $5.
Can’t argue with the Robin Hood of NSW racing, can we?
Yet, soon after, when questioned about Tabcorp’s usurious take out rate on bets, which, in itself, are a complete dogs breakfast, he virtually denigrated the average punter by asserting that they, literally, couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the take out rate.
Extraordinary for a CEO of a major racing governing body to make such an assertion about punters, irrespective of whether they are your average punter at the betting shop or at the end of a phone line or on-line or whether that punter is a high roller.
Imagine the CEO of the NRL or the AFL or Cricket Australia, or Woolworths or Coles talking down to their fan bases or to their customers. It just wouldn’t happen would it? But not NSW racing which treats their customers with contempt. And not just the customer.
Just ask some of the “50,000 participants” that this knight in shining armour so nauseatingly professes to defend and martyr himself for their cause.
The noises are getting louder and louder that the trainers and jockeys- and owners- have just about had enough and are ready to call “time” on the Racing NSW administration and expose the spin of their self serving agendas.
The usurious and grossly excessive take out rate is exactly what has been driving punters out of wagering with Tabcorp in droves and into the welcoming arms of the corporates whose take out rates are in the tantalizingly low single figures.
The lure is irresistible, and puhleeze, Pete, don’t give us that spin doctoring crap about Tabcorp’s massive overheads and costs of operations.
Tabcorp is a bureaucratic monolith that has operated for too long under the protective clothing provided for it by the Governing bodies such as Racing NSW. And so-called disagreements between Racing NSW and Tabcorp always seem to be resolved by negotiation and compromise as most disputes should. They don’t ever end up in the courts of NSW, do they? Funny about that.
V’landys’ comments and attitudes epitomize the mess that NSW and Australian racing is in- and it’s a diabolical mess.
Forget the crap about the “championships”, and the prize money hikes and “the new optimism” about racing in NSW.
If you don’t respect your customer and treat them with contempt, you will continue to give them every reason to keep stampeding towards the exit sign. That type of management deserves nothing less than a parachute.
Apologists for Tabcorp and the jolly green giant itself must be living in their delusionary la la land if they don’t believe that today’s punters are price sensitive – and not just about racing.
As any Executive with a half a brain would tell you, consumer behaviour is almost exclusively governed by price.
Hence, the intense price-focused extensive and expensive saturation marketing campaigns by the plethora of privatised energy retailers for market share in the energy sector.
Want another example?
How about the decades-long home loan interest war between banks and the wider home lending sector?
And Pete, you’re trying to tell us that the demographic at which these products and services are targeted are any different from Mr and Mrs Average Punter.
Puhleeze. Nice try, mate, but our names are not Dumb and Dumber, okay?
So, if there are degrees of price sensitivity among punters, imagine how reactive punters at the top end would be. And if your take out rates are little short of rampant extortion- and there for all to see- then you would have to be either financially illiterate or a financial masochist to bet with the pari-mutuel operators.
Frustratingly, Australian racing, more than any other sport or commercial enterprise, tolerates mediocrity in management.
It’s a shining example of The Peter Principle where incompetence is rewarded and promoted to obscene levels of power.
Incompetence La La is almost a pre-requisite for employment in the upper echelons of management in Australian racing. And the “50,000 participants” in the NSW racing industry are the poor suffering victims.
ANOTHER PARTNERSHIP BITES THE DUST.
Very little in racing partnerships lasts forever, or even a few months or years.
So the longevity of the Mark Kavanagh/Michael Rodd partnership is more an aberration in that respect. They enjoyed a great degree of success at Group One level and there is little doubt that Michael Rodd, unquestionably, played a major role in helping “Kav” establish his credentials in Victoria after his move over the border from South Australia where he was hardly a household name in the training ranks.
Michael Rodd is a “gun” jockey and an equally decent bloke- but gawdawful karaoke singer.
He is underrated as a jockey, to put it mildly, and like many of the great jockeys, excels at the elite level against the best of his profession.
He has won the Melbourne Cup and been beaten by a whisker in another. His CV is littered with Group race wins aboard the likes of Atlantic Jewel, Whobegotoyu and Maldivian amongst a host of others.
The split with Kavanagh will enable Rodd to cast his net far wider and open up a wider range of options with different successful stables and some of their A-listers.
The spin emanating from Kavanagh announcing the split, however was a tad nauseating.
After using all the tired old lines about what a great partnership it had been and how they are still mates and he would continue to use Michael’s services, since the split was announced, Kav has had plenty of runners- but no Michael Rodd in the saddle. No surprise, really.
Kav’s well known for his abrasiveness and could certainly sharpen up his PR skills.
The training game has become a lot more competitive as a whole bunch of young “upstarts” are starting to make quite a noise in the training ranks throughout Australia.
People skills- more than ever- count for much more these days, and will increasingly play a greater role in how successful a trainer is going to be in future.
THE DUH FACTOR
Last week’s edition of Racingbitch sparked a surprising- and interesting though misguided rant about the wagering landscape in Australia and Hong Kong.
As usual, some of the Ozzie And Harriett feedback managed to get it all wrong. Yet again.
The comparisons between Hong Kong and Australia were unfair, it was claimed, because- yawn- in Hong Kong, wagering on racehorses was the only game in town – the only sport or product that wagering could operate on, unlike the poor old land down under where cricket, NRL, AFL and a host of other wagering options were available.
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.
In Hong Kong, punters can and do wager LEGALLY on Football – that is the premier leagues not just in the UK, but in a host of other football leagues throughout Europe- and where wagered are massive bucks.
This is all done through the Hong Kong Jockey Club which OWNS the pari-mutuel totalisator and wagering licence in Hong Kong.
Betting shops in Hong Kong are open seven days a week for the two days of racing and pre-race betting on the cards on race day eve- as are Telebet and online accounts- at other times, it is betting on Football in the various premier leagues in the UK and Europe.
And no, there is no legal betting conducted on Hong Kong football, which is on a par with park soccer in Sydney’s west and south- and why rambling on about racing attendances in the city versus football attendances is, well, how you say, stoopid.
It is staggering- but, at the same time- understandable- how so many in Australian racing get their knickers in a twist and fail so miserably to get their facts right when getting on their high horse to attack and defend themselves in a frenzy of frazzledom.
There is a weird Don Quixote-like futility to it all.
It might have to do with the reasons why Australian racing is in free fall as Stupid Is As Stupid Does and one should know their strong suits, party suits, strengths and weaknesses and read the Art Of War before trying to reinvent themselves-overnight- and decide to become racing’s answer to Gandhi, Steve Jobs, the Bieb, LaToya, Marlon and Tito Jackson or Lady Gaga.
Even Gaga is more like Goo Goo these days, The Bieb has become The Boob and the Jackson surname has not worked for LaToya and her siblings.
It’s all just clutter in a world looking for substance and not another cheap Plastic Fantastic knock off.