WASHOUTS HOLDING RACING TO RANSOM IN NSW
The spate of abandoned race meetings in NSW – washed out by the Big Wet which has continued since early Autumn- has again highlighted the bloody-minded and illogical mindset of Racing NSW in relation to the installation of synthetic and all-weather tracks.
Where in Victoria, their Polytrack surface at the newly established Pakenham and Pro-Ride at Geelong has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of abandoned race meetings, in NSW, owners, trainers, jockeys and the wagering revenue and returns to the industry are held to ransom with the categorical refusal by those in their Druitt Street fortress to embrace the realities facing so many aspects of racing and bite the bullet and install one or two synthetic and all weather surfaces in appropriate regions in NSW to waterproof its racing industry from losing vital race meetings.
It is stating the obvious that racing in Oz is at a tipping point, financially. It is totally dependent on wagering revenue to survive and on Owners to invest in racing and provide the product for punters to wager on. Every race meeting lost produces a loss of revenue which cannot be recovered, and which the industry cannot afford to lose.
The evidence coming out of Victoria suggests that owners and trainers and punters are not averse to synthetic racing. Nine and ten race programs and wagering revenue are convincing evidence. And yet in NSW, like so much of its outdated and shackled thinking and attitudes towards key racing issues, they are being left at the barriers. NSW racing has become the laughing stock of Australian racing- and even beyond its shores.
Even turf racing purists in the general racing community and particularly among the owners and trainers, many of whom were vehement critics of synthetic surfaces, now recognize and accept that there is a place for synthetic and all weather tracks, if nothing else as a venue which can accommodate provincial and country racing in the wettest months of the year in Australia.
Racing NSW can no longer hide behind the costs of installing one or two synthetic tracks in NSW. Instead of instigating in a prize money “arms race” with their despised Victorian counterparts, here is a compelling and constructive opportunity to engage with the Baird Government and present a business case for accessing funding from the tax relief parity offered by the Government to install a synthetic track. This would be a track that would benefit ALL the “50,000 participants” and, particularly, the country sector and protect provincial and country racing from the ravages of wet weather which continues to cause carnage to the financial viability of these sectors. Is this asking too much, Sir?
PUNTERS LET DOWN BY TABCORP AND SKY
Competition has long been the enemy of monolithic businesses. To survive and prosper in today’s highly competitive and challenging commercial world, monolithic organizations face the inevitable- and often unpalatable- reality that if they fail to diversify and adapt to change, the fat lady will come singing, sooner rather than later.
Racing has witnessed this scenario for many, many decades – in Europe, the US and in Australia. It’s almost too late for some racing nations. Complacency coupled with a virulent resistance to change, caused by a combination of fear, ineptitude and incompetence have swept through racing like the bubonic plague.
Sadly, it appears to have even infected business organizations linked to racing, making the problem even more insurmountable.
The behaviour of Sky Channel and its parent company Tabcorp in blacking out Victorian racing from the Sky Channels beaming into homes and pub tabs demonstrates nothing short of contempt for punters. To victimize stay-at-home punters and those at licensed venues by depriving them of vision smacks of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Is it the punters fault that Racing Victoria decided to choose Seven West Media to carry vision of their domestic racing on their free to air channels? Is it the punters fault that Racing Victoria has chosen to pursue opportunities to further monetize the value of their international and digital vision rights and opportunities?
Surely, the punters deserve better than to be dragged into becoming the victim of a commercial dispute between a racing entity that has dared to think outside the square? By so doing, it has improved its racing’s reach and relevance in the community and among the generation coming through while its symbiotic business partner appears to be still operating in an era when King Tut was still to become a hit for Steve Martin.
According to Fairfax columnist Chris “Kunta Kinte” Roots, the fault lies with Racing Victoria. “Racing Victoria is holding the rest of Australia to ransom as it continues to attempt to put its new television deal into place…….Racing Victoria is simply being disrespectful to its main funding stream by not having vision freely available around the country”, opined “Kunta” In his Roots ‘N’ All column in last Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald.
Yes, ”Kunta”, it’s those despised Victorians, again. They are the root- Roots?- of all evil, aren’t they? Mate, who pulled the plug on the broadcast of Victorian racing? Reading the Tabcorp release, it was their decision. They (Tabcorp) put their hand up and declared they weren’t going to run vision on Sky and continue the interim arrangement pending a new and permanent deal being finalized. It was the same strategy that Tabcorp and Sky employed, which, ultimately, resulted in the demise of TVN. In the art of war, it’s a game of attrition and patience over a period of time. And Tabcorp plays the game well with a “little help from their friends”.
It does not require a great intellect to see through the strategy here; Tabcorp will play hard ball with Racing Victoria. If Racing Victoria blinks and “gifts” their vision over to them for a token figure, or for gratis, it will enable Tabcorp to puff their hairy chests out and save face with their shareholders and their mates in racing in NSW. And clearly, the longer the inconvenience to punters of switching channels to watch Victorian racing against the rest of the Australian racing via the amateurish wall to wall and thoroughbred central offerings via Sky, the better the chance that wagering on Victorian racing will take a hit. But for how long the institutional shareholders will tolerate such a war of attrition is debatable.
Equally debateable is “Kunta’s” analysis. Like the views of most racing commentators on racing issues, analysis is of a very basic and simplistic level. It barely makes the cut-off point for even being described as analytical. Media coverage of racing issues is of a painfully low quality, often driven by “reward for comment” motives. It’s a Kunta of a thing to read.
TIGHTENING THE SCREWS ON TAX PARITY SPENDING
If the inhabitants at the “Druitt Street bunker” don’t get the message from Premier Mike Baird and Racing Minister Troy Grant on how tax parity distribution is going to be implemented from the handing down of this week’s State budget, then they must be in denial. And we don’t mean the river in Egypt.
The Baird Government’s decision to not legislate tax parity is much, much more than just a decision to play safe and keep their options open. Clearly and justifiably, the Baird Government and its Racing Minister is less than confident that legislating and handing over lucrative and large volumes of cash in a blank cheque to the governing body with no controls over how the funds are expended is a risk worth taking.
The message is obviously getting through to the Government that the problems facing the NSW racing industry and the Great Divide between the “have’s” and the “have not’s” are growing and being perpetuated by decisions made by decision makers who are hopelessly out of touch and suffering from brain fatigue as heavy is the head that wears the crown.
The reality is that no responsible Government can engage in the outdated, highly questionable and politically risky practice of writing “open cheques” made out to, of all enterprises, racing governing entities, to spend based on judgments and choices borne of self interest.
The desperate attempts to make political capital by Labor Opposition leader Luke Foley, below, raises serious questions about his own political acumen and that of his party. Foley would, it appears, legislate tax parity and hand over the funds to Racing NSW.
Sorry Luke, my son, you appear to be operating on a delusional premise that the funding of the horse racing industry in NSW is actually a possible “game changer” in voting intentions. If you are, then, like the Beatles’ JoJo, you better get back from whatever self-imposed sabbatical you’ve been having since the election.
If there is one lesson that can clearly be learnt from community reaction to the fiscal policy of Governments – federal and state- is that irresponsible spending decisions, spending sprees and pain inflicted on the community is punished severely by the electorate.
It’s a lesson that has also eluded right wing conservative media commentator, shock jock and racing business partner of the “messiah”, Alan Jones.
For Jones to accuse Mike Baird of a “sleight of hand” over his Government decision to not legislate the promised tax parity is, at best, mischievous.
Sadly, for the ageing mouthpiece of many right wing conservatives, Jones no longer commands the influence that he once had in Liberal party circles. His popularity among the ageing demographic in his audience is still high, but natural attrition is taking care of the size of his audience.
The decision by the Baird Government to not legislate tax parity and leave decisions on allocating and spending and an approval process to Racing Minister Troy Grant must have been sniffed out by Racing NSW’s media “bestie” – “Sister” Ray Thomas.
Writing in last Saturday’s “smellygraph”, Thomas went into familiar nauseating lengths to tell readers of the “magnificent achievements” for NSW racing by his favourite battle-scarred warrior in Australian racing – Peter Vlundies, the Xena Warrior Prince of all he surveys.
Oh yes folks, our fearless warrior’s CV over the past decade is littered with victories over you name it – corporate bookmakers, Governments, interstate racing administrations, race clubs and the like. When he cannot negotiate his favoured outcome, he will enlist the support of the legal system to beat whoever dares take on ”Mt Indestructible”. Just don’t stand in his way. Even at a buffet table.
Hell, he’s Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Attila The Hun, and yes, even Joan of Arc roiled into one. But let’s not forget that at a time when the anniversary of the battle of waterloo was celebrated last week, that every strongman and woman, and every empire has its use by date. For some in NSW racing, time might just be running out, sooner than they think.
RIP PATRICK MACNEE
For those of who remember one of black and white television’s iconic shows of the sixties – the Avengers- it was with sadness we learned that the star of the show, the quintessential Englishman Patrick Macnee, passed away this week at the ripe old age of 93.
The Avengers spawned many spy series, and unlike many of the central characters in the shows that it spawned, Patrick Macnee’s character never carried a gun. His umbrella was his weapon of choice. The Avengers and Patrick Macnee provided countless hour of entertainment to many worldwide and for that we thank him.