CHAMPIONSHIPS END ON A WHIMPER. AND NOW WHAT?
The Grand Final of the Championships last Saturday has left Racing NSW and the ATC with a massive and unwanted and largely unexpected migraine – a severe one at that, in terms of future funding.
Unquestionably, the quality of horses and the massive hike in wagering cannot be questioned. It was racing at its very best and punters, big and small embraced it.
But the masses – racing and otherwise- stayed away in droves – not just at Randwick, but at Rosehill as well.
Despite the appalling weather and the Easter break, the Autumn carnival failed to deliver the crowds which both racing NSW and the ATC expected and were spruiking.
More critically, it is going to be near impossible to convince the new Baird Government in NSW to keep writing cheques for $10 million plus to help bankroll the Championships- not when the new State Government has hit the ground running with price hikes in essential services and with the desperate need to offer sweeteners in the lead up to the State election next year.
It would be a brave- or stupid- Mike Baird to be seen to keep throwing money to prop up prize money at a racing carnival which can only attract 25,000 through the turnstiles and deliver the economic benefits that were spun outta control by the usual suspects and their rag-tag team of spin doctors and rah rah cheering squad -and Glee Club- at the goonish News Limited.
What doesn’t help is the sycophantic editorial in News Limited in the immediate aftermath of the Championships.
Headlines like: “Spring in step after an autumn feat”; “Golden carnival will make Sydney a global showpiece”; “A track awash with support” and, finally, le piece de resistance- “Disappointing crowd figures no cause for alarm”- whaaaaaah???- greeted readers of the News Limited rags – the Daily Telegraph and its sister rag the Sunday Telegraph.
Reading the headlines, you could be forgiven for believing the Championships were a rip roaring, unqualified success. And reading the stories, it was convincing beyond doubt: Next year will be bigger and better.
But, children, children, and darling possums, where’s the money going to come from?
Now, we all know that from a financial perspective, the Championships are unsustainable without a mix of Government support plus support from Racing NSW and the ATC.
From the poor old ATC’s perspective, they are in a financial no man’s land, and it’s not the fault of the present Committee.
They inherited an unholy financial nightmare and the noose has been tightened around their necks by a combination of falling revenues and incomes and a clear push for influence and intervention by the governing body.
It would be naïve- in the extreme- to believe that the ATC is not trapped in the middle of a power struggle while it would be safe bet to assume that, privately, the ATC believes it is increasingly powerless and losing the battle to retain its independence and its declining power to control its own destiny.
The elephant in the room – the sale of Canterbury- is both inevitable and will happen far sooner than later to fund NSW racing and, in particular, the Championships.
The obscene and irresponsible prize money hikes for the Championships were and will continue to be unsustainable.
But from all their public pronouncements, Racing NSW are not only committed to these grossly over the top and unsustainable levels, but will hike them even further starting off in 2015.
The hollowness of the logic- or lack of it- is that the very same horses would have competed if the prize money levels for the major races were a million or more less.
In that way, as we wrote last week, it would have been possible to sustain another mid-week meeting or extend the carnival to ramp up the All Aged Stakes, one of Australia’s iconic weight for age races, with an appropriate support card.
Getting the turnstiles clicking is going to be nearly a bridge too far unless the marketing and promotional strategies are radically overhauled. And, so too with the blatantly transparent “spin” undertaken through a sycophantic and old-fashioned print media, better known in the NSW public domain for its editorial content and ranting, panting and raving pitched at the bottom feeders of society.
MUST we name them?
Nor does it help when you read that the two-day Oakbank Easter carnival- in South Australia of all places- gets more traction and does more for the South Australian economy than the Sydney Autumn carnival.
There is simply no comparison in quality of racehorses, Group races or prize money- yet the crowds just kept flocking to Oakbank.
Why not in such a sophisticated and “hip” city as Sydney? And when the NRL can attract record crowds over the Easter week, doesn’t it- again- show the bankruptcy of the argument blaming the Easter break and Sydneysiders heading for the highways to get the hell out of “sin city”?
It also rankled to hear interstaters-from Melbourne, in particular- making the all too valid observations about the user unfriendly “new” Randwick facilities and layout including the already infamous ”theatre of the Trojan horse” and difficulties accessing the front of the stand from the parade ring.
Hearing Sydneysiders refer to the “new” Randwick as a “white elephant” is a complete turn-off and is yet another marketing negative that has to be overcome.
No amount of spin and puerile headlines will cover up the inescapable conclusion that from a marketing and attendance perspective, the Championships failed- miserably- to trouble the scorer.
Unless the powers that be go back to the basics and admit some very glaring cock-ups, the Championships will continue to be a gross prize money orgy that fail to deliver the outcomes which were promised and which will remain so.
IS THIS THE FACE FOR THE HOPE FOR NSW COUNTRY RACING?
NSW Country racing is holding on to a glimmer of hope that the new Racing Minister Troy Grant- the member for Dubbo- will be sympathetic to the plight of the forgotten sector when dealing with the realities and necessities of his portfolio.
It is stating the obvious that country racing in NSW has felt grossly neglected for several decades and has become largely irrelevant in the decision making process for the racing industry in NSW.
NSW country racing participants point to bone dry tracks, decaying facilities for training and to the ever diminishing numbers of attendees in the forgotten sector of NSW racing.
Whether Troy Grant has the fire in his belly to take on “city hall” and look after the needs of the sector that he represents, only time will tell- as will his support for the Racing NSW vision and blueprint for racing in the State.
Like most of the NSW racing industry, we wait with bated breath.
BLEAK CITY BLUES FOR GAI AND ROBBIE.
The media in bleak city must be struggling for headlines.
It is the only conclusion from the front page story beating up Premier and Racing Minister and racing fanatic Denis Napthine’s support for Robbie Waterhouse to be given a rails position at next week’s Warrnambool carnival.
Victorian racing’s best friend Denis Napthine has been accused- of all things- with seeking to have Racing Victoria give Robbie a place on the rails with the normal Victorian bookies who have been operating at the carnival for many years.
Worse still, the Victorian newshounds have linked the Premier’s support with Gai’s guest of honour role at a local Liberal party fund raiser on April 30, the middle day of then three day carnival at Warrnambool.
Is it any wonder that racing in Australia is it’s own worst enemy?
Whatever anyone may think or believe about Gai, she is one of the very few positives that Australian racing has going for it.
She is a one woman travelling marketing road show for racing. And what does racing do? Look a gift horse in the mouth.
Gai’s attendance and support for the Warrnambool carnival and nomination of two jumpers is the best thing that has happened to Warrnambool in recent times.
It has dealt a severe blow to the flaky, well-organized and hysterical animal rights lobby who have been gunning for jumps racing and racing in general for a long time. And who gives a flying fuck whether Gai is the star act at the local Liberal party fund raiser?
Her mere presence at the Warrnambool racing carnival is a massive boost for racing and the carnival.
Her presence should be embraced and promoted, not dragged into some unedifying pathetic political media farce for cheap headlines.
As for Robbie’s request to operate on the rails, the reality is that Robbie, too- don’t laugh- adds a presence to bookmaking.
He is never scared of taking a punter on and, unquestionably, adds depth to the colourless and ever-diminishing number of bagmen who swing their satchels at race meetings these days.
Surely Robbie could have been accommodated?
In yet another way, racing in Oz again demonstrates that it is totally clueless and parochial and living under a rock in understanding marketing and the human psyche.
Coming up with meaningless concepts such as “Relaxed racing” and the equally appalling Championships campaign is compelling evidence of its self perpetuating deficiencies in one of the most critical areas of understanding its existing and potential customers and communicating with them.
THE GREAT RACINGB*TCH CHALLENGE
Everyone’s a critic- and horse racing has more critics, haters and duplicitous characters- no prizes for guessing the leader of this rat pack in Oz- than any other sport.
Gawd knows, it’s been a struggle to bringing out this muscular organ- for free- and with such regularity- when having to deal with vapid legal threats, computers being hacked, anonymous letters sent around to create problems, rudeness, cheap pot shots by racing’s equivalent of TMZ and, despite so many knowledgeable and decent followers on social media, the knobs get through the door to emphasize their naïveté.
So, when a jockey and trainer who are true blue mates suggested having someone else bring out Racingbitch for a month and see how well they’d go, we thought, why not?
Anyone out there game enough to take this on?
Game to write and bring out content- for free?
Agree and we’ll throw in AUS$1k as there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
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