ASCOT INTEREST SURGES
In what is clearly a welcome sign for UK racing, the recent Royal Ascot five day racing carnival has posted many positive and, in some instances, record results.
The most significant trend in racing, and which is clearly demonstrated by Royal Ascot, is the surge in interest spilling over to healthy and sometimes increased attendances confined exclusively to racing carnivals and racing events- with the exception of the Sydney Autumn racing carnival, aka The Championships.
Sorry, Mr Messiah. The Truth Shall Set Ye Free, bro.
The trend is indisputable. The community at large, and the racing community included, have voted convincingly with their feet to give weekday and weekend racing a big miss.
In this modern environment there is just no place for saturation racing in a society which is not only spoilt for choice with an enticing range of entertainment and leisure options, but which chooses to divide its loyalties and interest and strive for lifestyle balance.
The “too much of a good thing” principle these days has a very short life span.
For the non-racegoer, racing carnivals and special racing events provide the glamour, interest and social environment that gets them through the turnstiles. And as Royal Ascot and the Melbourne spring carnival have demonstrated in recent times, social media and technology have played a pivotal role in reviving interest in racing.
Royal Ascot’s Facebook page this year recorded over 5.5 million posts, check ins, “likes” and mentions – a staggering 100% increase on last year. Over 25,000 people signed on to Ascot’s free wifi and 30,00 tweets logged using the hashtag #RoyalAscot.
Significantly, and again conclusively, social media impacts much more positively on racing during racing carnivals and events.
It has a particularly potent impact on people on the fringe of racing and among those who attend race meetings, and in these instances, carnivals and special events for social reasons.
Among the Australian racing community, it is a different ball game with an incessant mix of meaningless and irrelevant chatter among an increasing number of “desperate and dateless” of both genders with a false sense of self-importance whose access and use of social media often dumbs down debate on just about every topic that surfaces in racing.
Nevertheless, the challenge for racing clubs and administrations is to drive their marketing campaigns- hmmm- around what entices people to attend racing carnivals and activate social media to step into the role that was once the domain of traditional media. Hmmm. But do they have or can they attract the right people- or is incompetence being rewarded and promoted?
The traditional media triumvirate – print, radio and television- has long lost its customer base of followers and clients, and with it, it’s potency and reach.
Technology has accelerated the process, and in doing so, has made Social Media an easy to access and a more “sexy” medium of choice to a generation which has embraced it.
WAR ABOUT TO BE DECLARED ON JOCKEYS!
If there is one single distinguishable feature about Australian racing, it is its capacity to engage in sectarian warfare – with States, racing clubs, stakeholder groups and just about any hapless sector that gets in the way of power brokers on their march to wielding ultimate power.
Not surprisingly the state of NSW always seems to figure prominently as the venue of choice for battle – most of them bitter, almost all of them avoidable, and again, in most instances, leaving a legacy of mistrust and vindictiveness which rolls on and develops a life span of their own.
As always the only winners are the barristers and silks and racing’s growing list of competitors. Racing has and always will be the loser.
Fast track to the most recent Australian Racing Board meeting, where the Board, for reasons beyond the comprehension of many in racing, decided to direct all Principal Racing Authorities in each State to stop collecting the $5 surcharge out of every riding fee to fund the Australian Jockeys Association (AJA).
Ironically the Australian Racing Board is housed in the same building as Racing NSW.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Board’s Chief Executive Peter “toffee tongue” McGauran has written to State Governing Bodies, suggesting they stop taking the fee: “The AJA is a national body and as such should collect its own fees instead of depending on someone”.
Quoting AJA sources, the Herald reported that the AJA believed the decision was a response to the jockeys superannuation claim, which, when handed down, is believed to include a retrospectivity payment, but which according to those close to NSW Jockeys Association believe is very much open to negotiation and compromise and may not even be pursued by the jockeys.
Like many- and not just in racing- the principle of retrospectivity should not be mandatory. No problem with that. It should be on the table and open to negotiation. So why pick a fight?
Surely, a person of “toffee’s” experience as a former Federal Cabinet Minister should be skilled in the art of navigating through issues and achieving workable and constructive solutions?
Isn’t that one of the reasons “toffee”- that sweet talking churning urn of funk- was appointed to this “prestigious” role in Australian racing?
From what we are hearing, jockeys- and not just in NSW- are bewildered and angry at the Board decision.
The AJA ,we are told, is a tight knot organization, which commands the support and confidence of its jockey members.
Resource-wise, it is not bulging with manpower and very much dependent on Governing bodies for administrative support to collect the surcharge to fund its operations.
The role of the AJA has also been lauded and recognized in delivering better employment and financial conditions for jockeys in such key areas as insurance and workcover protection and safety for jockeys, who, for many decades have been the “forgotten” participant group in the Australian racing landscape.
By the very nature of their profession- and the dangers they face on a daily basis- and often several times within each day when they are legged up aboard a powerful racehorse- jockeys command a great deal of public goodwill and sympathy.
While they are always exposed to finger pointing for their rides, there is also an increasing appreciation of their role in the racing industry.
It is quite feasible that with tensions simmering and a belligerent and provocative position by the Australian Racing Board and any Governing Body which chooses to support the Board directive, industrial action could well be on the jockeys’ radar.
It will be yet another blow for Australian racing- yet another dispute – another war, which the Australian racing industry does not need to have, and can unquestionably do without.
Is it any wonder that the community at large chooses to disengage itself from Australian racing?
AND NOW TO THE BORDER WAR
Last week’s Sportsman racing form guide newspaper included a ten question interview with Australian racing’s equivalent of a wannabe five star army general – Peter Vlundies, pictured below.
The interview was conducted by reporter Neil Evans, a very unfamiliar name to many in NSW, and almost a “Neil who” in other States.
His last question to Emperor Vlundies, below, and his response were telling and encapsulates the core problem with the Australian racing industry.
Evans: “Does it irritate you how Victorians think racing and its governance starts and finishes at the border, yet every Spring Sydney stables generally give them a flogging?
General Vlundies, below: “Victorians always irritate me, They seem to have this superiority attitude no matter the racing code. So I try to irritate them back. It will come to a point when I will not be allowed in Victoria!”
What hope does Australian racing have when these types of kindergarten inferiority complexes are allowed to drag the industry into its very own version of a Greek tragedy – putting Sophocles and Euripides to shame?