SO WHAT MAKES HONG KONG RACING THE BEST IN THE WORLD?
It is one of the best interviews conducted in the world of racing. Paul Haigh’s interview with Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, CEO of the HKJC, in the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary is comprehensive, illuminating and from a racing and sport perspective a definitive blueprint for what makes a sport successful in this exciting and dynamic new millennium that is the twenty first century.
EB’s blueprint is engaging, non-confronting and adaptable. It comes with ready-to-assemble instructions. It should be compulsory in all and any racing and sports administration curriculums.
Paul Haigh poses the question, “Is Hong Kong racing poised to take world leadership role? The interview with Engelbrecht-Bresges answers the questions positively and with gusto.
The interview demonstrates, conclusively and convincingly, the crucial and critical role that Leadership plays in the success of racing, sport and in any business organization. Paul Haigh’s opening line sums EB up perfectly: “As one of the most influential racing administrators in the world, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges has a rare level of insight into the sport’s major issues”.
If racing world wide lacked a Statesman, it has one now.
In his interview, Haigh traverses across every important issue confronting racing, both in Hong Kong and globally. They are issues common to racing and where there are no territorial boundaries- from the value and success of racing conferences, and, in particular, the Asian Racing Conference and their outcomes, to a global commitment to the adoption of changes required to maintain the credibility of Black Type racing, the emergence of world champion racehorses trained in Hong Kong, the infrastructure program to maintain the quality and consistency of both Shatin and Happy Valley, the future of dirt racing, the successful development of the Longines International Races as one of the world’s premier racing carnivals and events, the development of the Conghua training and ultimately racing facility in Southern China, the integrity of racing and progressing towards drug free racing, the impact of betting exchanges and corporate bookmakers and sports betting, the relationship with the Hong Kong Government and the future of racing in an increasingly competitive environment. Whew!
Engelbrecht-Bresges’ responses are riveting. They are a clear and unambiguous articulation of values and outcomes which are the foundation stone of any successful sport. His passion and optimism for- and confidence in the sport of racing is infectious. It shines a completely different and powerful beam of bright light on the future of racing.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, EB oozes positives. Here is a man who clearly eats challenges for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. It’s a portrait of a man who intimately knows his role and is not just comfortable with it, but enjoys it with a passion. And in racing such an individual belongs to a near extinct species.
The two most enduring impressions from the interview are the qualities of leadership and the clear aversion to hubris, which every other racing and sports administrator can learn from.
Ultimately, in sport and business, and for that matter, any organization, leadership determines success. The buck always stops with the Leader. And so it should. And the most successful leaders are those who are either naturally or consciously free of hubris – that dark side of arrogance and excessive self-pride, which is almost always followed by failure, and, sometimes, spectacularly.
The leadership of EB and its impact on Hong Kong racing draws irresistible comparisons with global and Australian racing. It demonstrates convincingly, that a gap the size of the mighty Grand Canyon, challenges Australian racing.
Equally convincingly, it demands that the decision makers and powers that be exorcise the schisms which have been deliberately imposed on Australian racing by vested interests and have created a dysfunctional and embarrassing mess incapable of determining its own destiny and speaking with one voice.
Asked about what challenges he might think exist in attempting to export the Hong Kong administrative model to another jurisdiction, Engelbrecht-Bresges response is highly pertinent to Australia: “The starting point must be to ask ourselves what are our fundamental values?”
It is a question Australian racing needs to ask itself. Does it have any values? If so what are they? We can add another question of our own: How much respect does Australian racing have for the community in which it operates- for its stakeholders and participants, for the State Governments in whose jurisdictions in which it operates?
The answer to this question is a simple one. The declining attendances and the empty enclosures is the legacy racing in Australia has inherited.
Unlike Hong Kong racing which is unashamedly customer-focussed and customer-driven with an unambiguous commitment to integrity at every level of its operations, Australian racing and its administrators continually posture and pay lip service to the values they claim to espouse.
Worse still, the tool of deception- spin- is the weapon of choice for many to camouflage the ineptitude of many a Chief Executive and Chairman.
The last word belongs to Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges responding to a question on how optimistic he is about the future of racing worldwide:
“Beyond the structural issues relating to the racing/wagering model, the ABSOLUTE IMPERATIVE is that racing focusses ALL its energies on satisfying its CUSTOMERS, be that the betting account holders, the racehorse owners or the race day patrons. Nowadays people have a virtual limitless array of choices as to how they spend their recreational time and money and they simply will not accept a substandard racing product, whether that consists of question marks over integrity, small fields, inadequate food and beverage choices or any other aspect of their racing experience”.
Sound familiar? It resonates, does it not with Australian racing, and, particularly, in harbour city.
The customer has and always will be king and queen. It’s not about doing a Julius Caesar and conquering territories and creating empires, is it?
To those racing administers who lead through intimidation and fear, cheap politics, and a false sense of self-importance, click onto the interview, grab your reading glasses and turn on your hearing aids.
It’s never too late to stop droning on in love with your own voices and learn something.
NSW TRAINERS SINK THE RACING NSW PARITY ARGUMENT.
The NSW Trainers Association has drawn a significant line in the sand in entering the debate about tax parity and additional funding for the NSW racing industry.
Their call for any additional funding to be channelled into infrastructure rather than prize money, quoted by Fairfax media, is in direct conflict with the Racing NSW/News Limited belligerent public campaign to beat Premier Mike Baird and Racing Minister Troy Grant into submission and divert any extra funding via tax parity into further inflating already bloated metropolitan prize money. Not surprisingly, the News Limited rags chose not to run the story.
It’s a massive slap in the face for Druitt Street and Racing NSW Chief Executive Peter Vlundies.
The Association’s Chairman Adam Kilgour set three clear priorities: “Spent properly, this money needs to do three things. One: improve infrastructure so lives are saved and racing quality and reliability are improved. That will improve field sizes and betting turnover which sustains the industry. Two: help promote horse racing in NSW to a new generation of owners by reducing the costs of racing. This can be done by getting rid of fees for trials, track work, nominations and acceptances as other states have done. Three: secure the livelihoods of participants in the industry who make this such a great sport and industry”.
Kilgour goes further to reiterate what has been said by everyone outside the Racing NSW teepee: “There is general agreement throughout the industry that track improvements and training facilities deserve priority from these additional funds”.
What has also been “buried” in this farcical tax parity argument is the very generous $20 million plus cheque that is signed off by Tabcorp every year on behalf of Racing NSW to all other States for product fees, which every other State racing governing body has to pay from their own coffers as product fees to Racing NSW for betting on NSW races. Not so Racing NSW, there is a Santa, after all. In the southern hemisphere he goes by the name of Tabcorp.
So, in reality, when the extra $20 million plus is taken into consideration, Racing NSW is no worse off than its mortal enemy in Victoria – a fact very conveniently treated under its own code of silence by Racing NSW and never raised by a very compliant NSW racing media.
CENSORSHIP IS ALIVE AND WELL IN NSW.
If Fairfax Chief Sports Writer Andrew Webster’s Friday morning piece in the Sydney Morning is right, then the days of cold war censorship exercised by official Russian newspaper Pravda is alive and well and living in NSW.
Ken Callander, one of the elder statesmen, and arguably one of the most respected figures of the modern day racing media pack, shocked the Australian racing industry with his sudden resignation on Monday from the Daily Telegraph.
Webster reports that Callander had “grown tired of his weekly columns being censored whenever critical of Racing NSW, the governing body that is notoriously sensitive to any semblance of negative analysis of. It all came to a head on Monday when an item about Racing NSW Chairman John Messara was published in country editions of the newspaper and online – before mysteriously being pulled for later editions”.
Does this surprise anyone in the NSW racing industry? Callander commented: “I resigned on a matter of principle. I did not believe that I had editorial freedom in items regarding Racing NSW, hence it was totally against my ethics to criticize others in the industry but not criticize the head body”.
Webster comments: “The cosy relationship between the Telegraph and Racing NSW has been the source of much discussion across the racing industry in recent months. A big fat deal struck between the two has many stakeholders believing the newspaper has become nothing more than a propaganda sheet for head office”.
Shades of North Korea, perhaps?
With Ken Callander out of the way, and with a compliant and sycophantic News Limited and its racing staff, the responsibility for holding Racing NSW to account falls heavily on media organizations like Fairfax, and on journos like Andrew Webster.
Ken Callander’s resignation and the reasons for it are a sad indictment of the degeneration of the NSW racing Industry and the levels to which it is sinking fast
When an industry can’t stand up to scrutiny and is granted refuge through censorship, it’s in diabolical strife.
Worse still is the failure of those who claim to be the custodians of NSW racing to stand up and drive the duplicitous power brokers and their cronies out of the industry which has lost any semblance of a moral compass- it it ever had one.