THE NOT SO SILENT AUCTION
The much anticipated “silent” auction of the two TVN racing publications – Best Bets and Winning Post- and the revelation of the Racing Victoria winning bid, and the Racing NSW losing bid, has set a thousand tongues wagging and wagging and wagging.
The mail around the traps is that Racing Victoria’s winning bid of $8.6 million trumped the Racing NSW bid by a shade under $100,000. Perilously close and staggeringly coincidental, one would think for a silent auction with just two bidders, and each having sought professional audits, analyses and due diligence from reputable and leading financial consultancies.
Putting aside the conspiracy theories being floated around, Racing Victoria’s winning bid is being regarded as a much needed and somewhat pyrrhic victory over arch enemy Racing NSW and one that would not sit very comfortably with the Druitt Street powerbrokers, despite whatever “spin” they might place on being gazumped by their bleak city counterparts.
It’s called loss of face, and knowing the massive egos involved, a defeat is a defeat is a defeat.
While Racing Victoria has flagged its intentions to continue publishing the two popular titles, the general consensus among racing insiders strongly suggested that, had Racing NSW succeeded in the silent auction, then Best Bets and Winning Post would have been sold on to a third party publisher in a pre-auction ”deal”, which would have rubbed the noses of their Victorian counterparts into horse manure.
Racing Victoria’s win will, no doubt, be high-fived by its administrators. It was the win they had to have after being comprehensively and continually done over by Racing NSW and, in particular, its very own “dear leader” through the slow and excruciating two year dismantling and ultimate demise of TVN, which was accelerated “with a little help from my friends”.
Racing NSW also had its share of the cake, although nowhere near as tasty as the slice which the Victorians were able to snare. Racing NSW came away with the struggling TVN website Racing Network, complete with its low value and low number database, which the Victorians put in a token and insultingly low five figure bid of $60,000.
The Racing Network was one piece of TVN real estate that the Victorians just did not want to retain, having spent plenty on establishing a much more modern website – racing.com, which could potentially deliver significantly greater value in the medium and long term than the Racing Network could.
Then there is the problem of funding a complete makeover of the Racing Network website, which may not align with the “scrooge” mentality of the bean counters at Druitt Street.
WILL TVN BE RESURRECTED?
Visiting Caulfield for their most enjoyable and high quality Blue Diamond race meeting, and away from the track, the chatter centred around the demise of TVN and the various political agendas and serial leakers among the hierarchies of both State administrators.
Interestingly, the Victorians were extremely bullish about the resurrection of TVN, albeit in a new and very different incarnation.
The blueprint, from what we gathered, is being worked on feverishly, and involves a multi medium strategy, based initially on Victorian only content, produced separately by the Victorian industry owned production company Thoroughbred Racing Productions and beamed digitally and free of charge through their industry website racing.com, and also through Foxtel to Pay TV subscribers through both Sky and possibly through a second separate channel (replicating the soon to be defunct SKY/TVN), and through a free to air network (Seven Network) for a select number of feature race meetings in the spring and autumn.
This scenario was the subject of a editorial piece by Matt Stewart in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper on Thursday, quoting an “industry source”, whom Stewart later in his story defined further as “the Victorian source close to racing.com”.
Quite clearly, the Victorians are adopting a position based on maximizing the financial outcome from their multi-medium strategy. And they are prepared to not be harassed by their agenda-driven opponents from over the border into jumping prematurely into bed with the first suitor who shouts them a bottle or three of Moet.
Whilst this strategy will inevitably attract even more negative commentary and spin again from the Tabcorp goon squad anxious to negotiate from a position of strength, there is little doubt that these tactics and the duplicitous leakers from both state governing bodies have been exposed for what they are and always have been.
While Racing NSW has shown its hand, the Victorian are yet to do so. And that must be so unsettling for Racing NSW and their life partner Tabcorp. They just might have been too clever by half.
AND A BAD WEEK GOT EVEN WORSE FOR RACING NSW
If getting done over by Racing Victoria on the silent auction for the TVN owned Best Bets and Winning Post last Friday wasn’t bad enough for Racing NSW and the heavies from Druitt Street, the week just got worse, with the news reported “exclusively” in Friday’s Daily Smellygraph by its State Political Editor Andrew Clennell, that Racing Minister and Deputy Premier Troy Grant had ruled out writing an open cheque to Racing NSW to make up the tax parity difference with the arch enemy in Victoria.
Minister Grant’s reported comments suggest strongly that he was not going to allow Racing NSW to pump up prize money to obscene levels and subsidize the racehorse ownership indulgences of the small and powerful elites in Sydney who control racing in this State.
Troy Grant very obviously has been listening to And digesting what is becoming a deafening undercurrent of disenchantment and discontent about the direction of racing in NSW and the increasingly loud private protests at the “one state” mentality that pervades the governance and decision making process in the State.
Throwing whatever the parity difference might be at prize money and specifically raising metropolitan levels to ridiculous six figure levels will merely perpetuate the problems that have accelerated the demise of NSW racing.
It will make not bone skerrick of difference in attracting new owners to racing in NSW.
The ownership base and demographic in NSW is completely different to Victoria. It does not come off an egalitarian base.
Where racehorse ownership in Victoria comprises a very diverse and grass roots base around syndicates, dominated by a blue and white collar demographic, NSW ownership base is heavily skewered towards the rich and powerful elites who dominate the “big” end of town – the small but powerful and cash rich successful commercial and business entrepreneurs, driven by the ruthless and soulless Gordon Gecko ethic of being bigger and better than one’s competitors, and driving the middle and bottom tiers off the harbour bridge.
These guys and gals don’t give a toss about maintaining the sustainability of the racing industry for its “50,000” participants or for the future profitability and survival of NSW racing.
For them it’s all about the Now and about THEM.
Getting serious about reducing the costs of racing does not require an Einstein to develop some magical solutions. But these simple and straight forward solutions may not be populist enough to appeal to the empty rhetoric or the massive egos or politically motivated and self serving agendas of the NSW racing powerbrokers.
Topping up the already bulging bank balances of those who don’t need the top ups is far easier than placating the rabble that lurks among the “50,000” participants.
Troy Grant is absolutely on the money when he states that: “the line that this (parity) is racing industry’s money that is stolen from them is crap. It’s punters who put the money in that currently gets returned to the taxpayer. There are proponents of parity who are pursuing it for a prize money type outcome because they believe that dribbles down into greater participation, investment in the industry. We need to look at it if the government is changing the revenue stream, on behalf of the taxpayers we need to make sure it’s a revenue creator as well”.
The message is unambiguous and without any of the type of spin that is so ingrained in many of the pronouncements from Druitt Street.
As a country resident and parliamentarian, Troy Grant would have witnessed the slow and steady decline of NSW country racing, driven to an anorexic state by financial starvation which has left its infrastructure and facilities in a condition reminiscent of what might have existed in the immediate post second world war era.
He would also recognize that NSW racing desperately needs to re-engage the country and provincial sectors. And that equates quite simply into a package which includes infrastructure, prize money, marketing and promotion to expand the ownership and participation base of a sector which has been selectively neglected for too long.
One of the biggest deterrents to racehorse ownership are the costs associated with- duh- owning a racehorse.
Costs such as fees and charges across track usage, nominations and acceptances, rentals, veterinary and transport cost and wages.
It is these costs which can and should be addressed, reduced and in some instances neutralized through subsidies, and not by throwing whatever comes the way of NSW racing through tax concessions at prize money, which in NSW is spread very, very unevenly.
The response to Troy Grant from Racing NSW’ “dear leader” Pierre Vlundies was typically disrespectful of any one person or institution who dares to voice their disagreement or opposition with anything that even remotely bares his imprimatur.
It was vintage spin from someone who has turned spin into an art form: “(the government) shouldn’t need to commission 100 consultants to find every excuse not to do it. Secretaries of the Treasury are not known for their generosity. They even knock back their kids request for pocket money”.
Wow! Talk about the pot calling the kettle a darker shade of black!!! If only the racing public knew what the “50,000” participants as well as the inmates of Druitt Street REALLY thought of their “dear leader”.
Yes, there’s a micro managing scrooge alive and hidden somewhere in the air conditioning vents in Druitt Street.
Racing NSW is not on its own in conducting its guerrilla war for tax parity from the State Government.
It has a solid and pathetically sycophantic ally in News Limited’s masthead the Daily Telegraph, aka the daily smellygraph.
Sydney’s very own “news of the world” has long been recognized as Rupert’s mud slinger with a strong mass appeal to the lowest common denominators in the community.
So, it is hardly a surprise that it has used its editorial and senior writers to promote Racing NSW’s crusade for tax parity. Colourful headlines such as “Lead in the saddlebags of NSW racing industry”; “High-tax handicapper hobbling racing industry” and “Turf war looms at hint tax cuts off”, greeted readers of the News Limited rag on Friday morning.
Yes, no less than three stories including an editorial on a subject that will not decide the outcome of one solitary seat in the forthcoming NSW State election. And to think that Australia and every state faces a massive debt and revenue problem!
But Rupert’s media empire is defined by its ability to get down and dirty. To personalize and throw enough mud that some of it sticks.
Not this time fellas, if you think that horse racing is an election issue in any shape or form you are fucking delusional.
ARE YOU FOR REAL, SHANE O?
When we were in Melbourne last week, we had the misfortune to hear RSN’s Shane Anderson’s rather immature, girlish and personal on-air banter with one of his besties Wayne Hawkes aka FONC as he is known in Melbourne racing circles. Yeah, FONC.
“Fonc” is hard to take at the best of times, but with a giggling Shane O engaging in a conversation that reeked of personal and meaningless incestuous banter, is it any wonder that racing finds it impossible to break through a glass ceiling of its own creation and even communicate with its own dwindling audience?
Girls, in case you may have forgotten, its not about you. Radio isn’t and the racing industry isn’t either. Did someone forget to remind you that this type of drivel is anything but entertainment, which many might mistakenly believe is what racing’s core values are all about? Or should we just brush it off as we always do.
After all ,girls will always be girls…