TWEET OF THE DAY
IS RACING ITS OWN WORST ENEMY?
It is stating the bleeding obvious that sport, globally, is dealing with a multitude of demons – from match fixing to drugs abuse, to the insidious influence of criminals, to serious behavioural issues. With the rampant use and abuse of social media and its ascendancy as a communications medium in an environment where technology has transformed life forever, sport has been forced to nuke its operational model and redefine its strategy to not just remain relevant, but to grow and infiltrate the hearts and minds of a relentlessly demanding and challenging society.
For sports, of all types, it is as simple as transposing Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Sport is undergoing its own phase of “survival of the fittest”. It is being played out before our own eyes. The irony is that despite all the regular posturings about the so-called sophisticated society that we frequently remind ourselves that we are living in, the participants and members who make up certain sporting communities keep failing abysmally to exercise their “duty of care” to adapt, protect and grow their sports. And, if the altitude doesn’t get the better of you, climb Everest.
There is a stark and very obvious contrast between the winners and losers in the diverse and cluttered world of sports. The winners, and to name a few of them – the various football codes, cricket, women’s sports of just about any description, are powering ahead. They have a common blueprint – with few exceptions. They are well administered by men and women who are single-mindedly committed to the success of the codes and sports which they administer and manage. These are fearless and decisive men and women-calculated risk takers, who thrive on applying their leadership skills to create a compelling and seductive environment for the fans who ultimately determine the success or failure of a sport. They eat challenge for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But the real key for the prosperity of any sport is its ability to embrace creativity and innovation- and really understand what this means instead of faking it. These two tangibles have long been the determiner of success in the commercial world. And what succeeds in the commercial world often becomes contagious and filters through to any business aspiring to a successful future. And it is not too difficult to single out which sports fit into this category. Think 20/20 cricket and the IPL and the “Big Bash”, the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and the various football codes, and the spiralling success of women’s sport, once a staid and gentle endeavour. Not so anymore.
And in Racing? The most obvious in recent times is the Happy Wednesday brand at Happy Valley in Hong Kong. Sadly it is a struggle to find any other successful marketing initiatives in Racing in recent times. But even this brand cannot afford to rest on its laurels and expect to attract newbies and retain its current customer base who demand change. It must be strategic and its evolution must come from this strategy.
Where other sports have been able to reinvent themselves with makeovers and hybrid versions of their sport, and use creativity and innovation to deliver outcomes which resonate with existing fans and attract new fans, Racing, pathetically, has way too often been left at the starting gates.
Racing has been entrenched with the “fear factor” embedded in its DNA for far too long. It has inhibited Racing’s desperate need to come of age. The fear of failure combined with an inability to understand the dynamic environment, which, in today’s society has drastically impeded Racing’s ability to compete with other sports. Racing is very much frozen in time.
To use a cricketing cliché, Racing today is coming off a “long run”. The siren has sounded and the last passengers are in danger of missing the boat. The jury is well and truly out on whether Racing is even capable of meeting the challenge. Its brand is hopelessly damaged. Sinister performance drugs, race fixing, equine welfare issues, and the angry, twisted, jealous, illiterate gibbering on Twitter by the usual suspects, have combined to present a potent mix of valid reasons why the generation coming through should have nothing to do with racing. What for? To be part of a sport run by some untrustworthy also-ran and their vacuous cronies?
The almost weekly negative headlines that racing attracts is no different these days to other sports which face similar if not almost identical problems. Brand damage in sport is almost part of the territory in the new millennium. But what sets Racing apart is the very clear and successful strategies used by competitive mainstream popular sports to manage issues and crises together with highly effective, creative and innovative and successful marketing initiatives, which not only control the damage, but enable a Business As Usual mantra to kick in, and rid themselves of all the negativity and anger that just must crash every racing Twitter party. The Sympathy Vote for “battlers” has worn thin. We’re all battlers. It’s what you do to become and be seen as winners that is key. If not, shoo shoo with the other angry birds.
Unlike Racing, the successful sports mentioned that have changed with the times are advantaged by their Leadership and Management Teams. Where racing employs budget price CEOs, its competitors are prepared to maker offers that can’t be refused to poach men and women of talent into their Executive teams. It’s that simple.
Where racing confuses and hires “bullies”, cast-offs from other industries, and lemmings who are no threat to their Executives and management, their competitors hire men and women of strength, vision and courage who are, yes, often better than those in charge. And this is a good thing. Who needs more of the same- Yes People who refuse to make their opinions known? Or worse, Yes, have no opinions, Minister. Don’t budge from following the laundry list and become order takers knowing full well that the top of the tree is creaky at best.
Where racing tolerates bitterness and division and the public denigration of those who police the Integrity function, their competitors don’t use the mercy rule in dishing out penalties to those who continually trash the brand. And being alerted to an interview on that puerile excuse for a radio station in Victoria – RSN, where a young trainer- Henry Dwyer- suggested that Peter Moody be appointed a spokesman for trainers, demonstrates the hopeless state that racing in that State is in.
Peter Moody, by his own admission, is enjoying life. Please Henry, leave him in his new found state of naked nirvana. What would they think of next? An advisory panel of some of the bottom feeders that infect the racing twittersphere?
Racing does not need rocket scientists or modern day Albert Einsteins to fix its woes. It must simply start at the top. Paying top dollar for the right Chief Executive and Management team would be a start- and putting a stop to the anarchic state that racing operates under would be a logical and necessary second stop. For far too long the inmates have been allowed to run the asylum.
THANK GOD FOR WINX
How fortunate is Australian racing? Winx is its gift from heaven. To produce two world champions within a decade down under is akin to scooping the pool in a lottery twice in the space of ten years. Racing administrators of all religious persuasions should make a bee line to their nearest shrines and offer thanks for the generosity of the deities that have bestowed Black Caviar and Winx to Australian racing at a time when racing has needed all the help it can get to capture the front and back pages of the print media and the lead the electronic news bulletins.
Like Black Caviar, Winx is the talking point across diverse demographics and socio-economic layers in the community at large. She is breathtakingly awesome. She has single-handedly wiped off the race fixers and drug cheats who have so calculatingly hijacked Australian racing and still continue to defend their indefensible behaviour protesting through faux innocence.
To the credit of the ATC and Racing NSW, they had the courage to tinker with the programming times for the marathon ten race card which had to be transferred from Saturday, and place the Apollo Stakes in the 5.40 pm evening time slot to entice fans to leave work earlier and get to Randwick to see this champion equine superstar. They were justly rewarded with a crowd in excess of 6000 at Randwick on a busy work day Monday to witness this equine phenomenon.
Winx did what we have been privileged to witness over her past 14 run winning sequence. Winx in full flight is simply awesome. We’ve become accustomed to the goosebumps every time she weaves her magical spell on a racetrack. For the sake of racing, we don’t want it to end.
Black Caviar and Winx remind and reiterate that horse racing is so much more than having a punt. They are and have been about one thing – Excellence. Winx and Black Caviar are the ONLY heroes of racing. Many of us are just so fortunate to have witnessed two champions in racing in a lifetime.
TONY CRUZ: A NATURAL FIT FOR LIGHTNING STAKES DAY
Bringing one of Hong Kong’s greatest racing legends out to Flemington for the inaugural Asian festival on Black Caviar Lightning Stakes day is a great initiative by the VRC. Tony Cruz aka “Putha Man” wax one of the all time greats in the world riding ranks and trained the world’s greatest sprinter at the time in the mighty Silent Witness in a training career that to this day glitters with success at the highest level in Hong Kong and beyond.
The great Putha Man is also great for his juicy off the cuff quips and didn’t disappoint the headline hungry Australian media with his assertion that had Silent Witness raced against Black Caviar, he would have beaten her. Please, I love you, man. But be Cool, my Macanese brother and don’t inhale…
There was only ONE Silent Witness and only ONE Black Caviar. It is said quite rightly that comparisons are odious and in this instance we have to agree. Let’s be thankful that we had the good fortune to see both champions strut their stuff on racing’s world stage.
Having Tony Cruz at Flemington for one of Victorian racing’s key autumn race dates and with the great Silent Witness participating in the Parade of Champions on the race day is a win for the VRC. Hopefully, his old mate The Babe can guide him towards a new tailor.