WHAT ODDS AS TO WHO HAS THE TOUGHEST JOB IN RACING?
The impending and surprise departure of Paul Bittar, below, from the most senior position of governance and administration in British racing – Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Board, has posed a most interesting and important question in racing circles: What is the toughest and most challenging senior executive position in global racing?
Like James Brown was the hardest working man in showbiz, what does it take to be the hardest working man in horse racing- globally- and who is it?
It was a question given more prominence by virtue of the fact that Sportsbet (aka Paddy Power), a very big and powerful global corporate bookmaking conglomerate, has opened a market on who is likely to replace Bittar.
Quirky, no doubt, as a “fun” bet to the average punter, but significantly, it had rated Hong Kong Jockey Club Chief Executive Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges at odds of 7/1 as a possible successor.
There is little doubt or argument that the head role in British racing is a formidable one. And our many good racing friends in the UK have acknowledged the very constructive and positive contribution that the “lad from down under”- Bittar- has made to British racing in times of great change and challenge.
In the same hemisphere, geographically, but a jetlag flight away from Heathrow, and by far and away the leading racing jurisdiction in the new world, Hong Kong clearly presents the most complex and challenging environment for a leader of racing in the 21st century.
A complex and challenging culture, Government relationship, regulation, financial and taxation arrangements and operational constraints and restrictions in the former British colony, which is now a part of the People’s Republic of China, makes Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges’ job as Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the toughest gig in world racing by the proverbial lengths of the Shatin, Royal Ascot and Flemington straights, combined.
Imagine the enormity of the task in understanding the sensitivities – cultural and political- and balancing and juggling the diverse interests of the racing, political, economic and cultural elites of Hong Kong and China?
And then there are the various stakeholders – Club Committee and Members and staff- the good, the bad and the hopeless, the useless and those from Gobbledygook- Owners, Trainers and Jockeys, punters, the well connected and seriously wealthy “wannabe” owners from the mainland, and, most importantly, the potential threats to the revenue base of racing from Vegas’ Asian “sistah” casino city that is Macau.
Get the picture?
The mere fact that Hong Kong is now firmly ensconced as the world’s leading racing jurisdiction, and its position acknowledged throughout Europe, the US, Australia, Asia and the Middle East, is testament to the leadership skills and achievements of its Chief Executive.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has to be “all things to all people”.
It is mandated to underwrite a very substantial chunk of its Government’s revenue base each year by a significant and onerous taxation take, which is immunized by any economic market forces impacting on wagering revenue.
At the same time, it is also required to play the dual roles of a philanthropic and benevolent organization signing off cheques for millions of dollars each season to a plethora of very worthwhile and genuine charity organizations without which they would be unable to provide their vital humanitarian support services to those who are disadvantaged and in need.
But that’s just one part of a very complex fine line that the Jockey Club Chief Executive has to traverse.
Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges must also lead and run a racing club, which, because of its outstanding success, attracts the attention and scrutiny of the entire racing world.
Using a cliché that still holds relevance in today’s commercial world, it’s tougher to stay at the top than it is to get there, and that is exactly the challenge which has faced the Jockey Club, which it has accepted and achieved with the rare brand of leadership in racing so lacking in many global racing jurisdictions.
It is the prime reason why racing is on its arse and down the crapper in so many of these countries, and which, in the most glaring example of Italy, is on the brink of extinction.
It is no secret that Hong Kong under “EB” has become a blueprint for many racing clubs in both the old and new world.
How many can read or understand this blueprint is another matter altogether.
Hong Kong racing’s strength is reflected and measured by the ability of its leadership to continue to reinvent and reinvigorate and grow its brand- and grow its IP whilst navigating the Club through the continual and inevitable turbulent waters that it encounters each racing season.
Being, not just the Chief Executive, but a successful one of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, IS, the toughest gig in world racing.
Even Soul Brother Number One would agree.
THE ADDICTION TO WAR
It is difficult to identify any sport or sporting jurisdiction or sporting authority, which is in a constant state of disputation with its own stakeholders and participant groups as Racing NSW.
If it isn’t a Race Club, it’s a Stakeholder Association, or an interstate governing body, or a Professional service sector, or even it’s own staff.
Yes, Racing NSW has a record of litigation, much of which that it can’t be proud of, particularly when many of the disputes are of its own daft creation, and instigations that could have been mediated or negotiated without the angst, the considerable financial cost and the fractured and irreparable damage to professional relationships, and to the brand and image of racing and its governing body.
Does no one on the Racing NSW Board, or its Chairman, or the State Government, or any of the influential figures in racing in NSW, ever wonder and ask the pertinent question as to why Racing NSW is in a constant state of disputation with just about anyone they deal with?
It’s an observation and a very inconvenient question that is embarrassingly asked whenever the subject of the state of racing in NSW is the topic du jour with interstate racing people.
And it happened again last weekend- and this week- in separate conversations regarding the “war” with NSW veterinarians, and the ongoing dispute with jockeys over the collection of their fees on behalf of their Association.
Racing NSW’s tactics are textbook cases in bully boy tactics which must stem from penis envy mixed with low self-esteem.
They are based on attrition and a willingness to resort to the costly weapon of litigation, which disadvantages most of the less financial aggrieved parties, leaving them with two unpalatable options – surrender or bankruptcy.
See what we mean about bully boy tactics?
The war with the “vets” is yet another striking example of a war, which just should not have happened, nor is the very pointless, divisive and inflammatory war being waged with NSW jockeys.
Is it any wonder why racing is just so marginalized in NSW when all you ever hear or read about relates to disputation and legal challenge?
It demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the monumental task of turning racing into a sport of choice for engagement and participation.
NSW racing makes no attempt to make the sport attractive and welcoming to the generations coming through.
What “welcome” mat? What new initiatives?
It just plods along with 6-7 horse fields and the usual suspects. Excuse us while we stifle a yawn.
It continues to successfully disengage itself and drive away potential “fans” and customers- in droves.
Pretending to fight “fake” wars and turning potential allies into enemies and, ultimately, victims to paper over glaring deficiencies, and prosecute selfish and self-serving agendas, is blatantly disingenuous and demonstrates the vacuum in leadership at the highest levels of NSW racing.
We can only continue to live in hope that the mercy rule is applied in the glaringly appropriate areas of NSW racing.
GRAND FINAL CLASH WITH START OF SPRING CARNIVAL
The VRC’s Turnbull Stakes race meeting on the first Saturday in October each year is always the mouth-watering entrée to their world famous spring racing carnival.
Next year, because of the ICC Cricket World Cup commitments, the AFL season will start a week later and finish a week later with the Grand Final pushed out from its traditional last Saturday in September to the first Saturday in October.
When the Grand Final and Turnbull Stakes last clashed in 2010, courtesy of a drawn game the previous week, the VRC and Racing Victoria transferred the meeting to the Sunday, which turned out to be a financial catastrophe.
So, in 2015, the Turnbull Stakes meeting will go head to head with the AFL Grand Final.
Whilst wagering is still expected to take a hit, both the VRC and racing Victoria have ample time to lessen the blow.
What did amuse us was reading in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, comments attributed to Racing Victoria Chief Executive, Bernard “The Plodder” Saundry.
If ever a racing organization and its CEO needed a top line spin doctor then this bloke does.
Said The Plodder, “We have a good relationship with the AFL, who acknowledge the significance of the spring racing carnival and they have afforded a commitment to work with us in delivering the best outcome for Victoria”.
Translator required please.
So is the AFL writing out a cheque to Racing Victoria and the TAB to compensate for the loss in wagering turnover? Or are they going to trial a night grand final? Or maybe they might stage the 2015 grand final on a Sunday?
Sorry “Plodder”, but the AFL does not give a flying fuck about racing or Racing Victoria, or for that matter your verbal diarrhoea when fixturing, or for that matter, when dealing with their game and its participants.
You better believe it mate, racing is not in the same league as many of its main competitors. And plodding white man speakum hokum and crap.