WHEN RIVALRY IS AMBUSHED BY VINDICTIVENESS
In Politics, Disunity is Death. It’s the same for any commercial sector or sporting code. In the dark and distant past, rivalries in sport were often marked by vindictiveness and played out in the worst possible manner where the victor frequently sought to annihilate and humiliate an opponent.
Fast forward to the present day and it is not too difficult to identify the sports which are powering ahead with their growing fan bases across all demographics, income groups and genders, underwriting their financial successes. These are the sports which are cashed up with literally a “no vacancy” sign flashing brightly at commercial organizations armed with bulging cheque books to ink their association with success.
The advent of the new millennium changed everything in the way sports managed themselves. It was a “coming of age” moment for sport and the way it was presented to a generation which had slowly evolved into one which became increasingly spoilt for choice and had unshackled itself from the constraints of tradition. Sports which relied on Babs singing “the way we were” were quickly left behind and faced with the almost herculean task of reinventing themselves, handicapped by giving their competitors a start.
The successful sports are those which are well managed and administered, and where competitive rivalries, not just on the playing arenas, but also behind closed doors, rarely lapse into prolonged bitterness or lingering vindictiveness.
A telling and common feature of successful sports is the ability of their administrators to put the interests of the sport above state, club and competitive loyalties. It has underwritten the success of the football codes and cricket – team oriented competitive sports, which have been able to grow their on and off-field active and passive fan bases, and, most importantly, attract billions of dollars from media rights and IP Rights, and commercial advertising, marketing, merchandising and sponsorship arrangements. They have also strategized brilliantly to minimize fallout from scandals and integrity issues.
The contrast with racing in Australia stark. It explains why the sport is in dire straits. Racing speaks not with one voice on the issues that matter nationally – it speaks with a hundred voices. It ends up with my confusing messages and is driven with vindictiveness between States and a cannibalistic lust for ambush as a precursor to the ultimate destruction of a rival.
Could there be a better example than Racing NSW and the ATC’s ambush of the one of the signature days of Australian racing and the Melbourne Spring Carnival – Caulfield Guineas day with their ill-thought out Australian equivalent of that very dubious American slot race the Pegasus? And what about the programming of the Randwick Guineas to go head to head with the Australian Guineas in the first weekend in March?
The loser with all of these pathetic ego driven “war” games between the States and driven by a limitless ego of and lust for power is racing. The Everest is not about being “good for Australian racing.” Give that a rest, serial racing twitterers. It starts and stops within the geographical boundaries of one State – NSW. It is not and never has been about what is best for Australian racing. It is about what can be done to erode the hugely successful Spring Racing Carnival. It is driven by the seven deadly sins rolled into one. And all of this at a time time when other sports are powering ahead surpassing every KPI that can be applied to measure their success.
Every one of racing’s dwindling fan base would be justified in feeling envious at how the Football codes – the NRL, the AFL, Soccer, and Rugby and Cricket are able to put aside the fierce rivalries within their sports and speak with one voice on the issues that matter. It is unquestionably one of the most powerful reasons they are able to reap a financial windfall from media rights, sponsorships and reward their participants generously.
Unlike racing, these sports are also able to attract dynamic forward thinking executives and management to govern and administer their sports. Like any successful modern leaders in business and sport, these men and women put everything on the table and respect the impact and connectivity between creativity and innovation on the one hand and success. If any of these popular sports were governed and managed the way racing has been, they would be heading towards extinction. But then again buffoons are not tolerated in the executive and managements teams of these sports, only it seems in Racing. And in the White House. And racing in Australia has its own Trump and White House where the man in charge plays in his own sandbox cheered on by his usual sycophants led by Sister Ray.
It is stating the obvious that Racing has been hamstrung for decades through the absence of a truly effective national governing body. Ask anyone what racing stands for and you would draw prolonged blank looks.
Racing has had its Australian Racing Board and its present incarnation Racing Australia. But both organisations had and have striking similarities; their lofty titles conceal the reality that they are nothing more than tokenistic entities with no real charter, authority or respect among the stakeholders, governing bodies, clubs and fans to put an end to the divisive and vindictiveness between the two major States in NSW and Victoria, which has and continue to lasso Australian racing.
It is incomprehensible that there was no conversation, and no consultation with Racing Victoria prior to the “earth shattering” and half-baked Everest announcement. And to brush it aside with an analogy with fast food chains exchanging recipes with their competitors demonstrates the intellectual wasteland in the leadership layer of racing which sets it apart from a raft of successful Australian sports.
IS EVEREST JUST ANOTHER VAPID THOUGHT BUBBLE?
With the (bull?) dust well and truly settled after the theatrics of the Everest announcement, it appears that despite all the manufactured hype, the concept is very much a work in progress – a concept which was hastily cobbled together with very little attention to detail, leaving a plethora of unanswered questions despite the absolute verbal diarrhoea spewed forth by Lord Petrus and his eleventh commandment that he be seen as the Saviour of Australian racing. Let’s stifle a yawn here.
With a little over seven months before its controversial clash with Caulfield Guineas day, the loopy Everest “concept”- and those who have embraced this as a “great innovation for horse racing” have proven just how naive and inexperienced they are when it comes to creativity and plain common sense- is very short on specifics, confirming the growing scepticism and cynicism associated with what is appearing increasingly to be a thought bubble desperately looking for substance to convince the racing community that it is a viable and feasible addition for Australian racing.
Much of the scepticism is based on the timing of the race and the cost structure for buying the “slots”. Clearly, October is the wrong time of the year if the top class three and four year old colts and entires are the target. The Everest is scheduled right in the middle of the southern hemisphere breeding season and studs and stallion owners, by nature, are fiercely protective of their potential stallions and reluctant to expose devaluing their assets by extending their racetrack careers. But, put a microphone in front of Lord Petrus and…
With the worldwide trend to retire colts at three, or at the maximum four, it would be unrealistic also to expect studs to stump up the mandatory $1.8 million to buy the three year “slots” to guarantee a start in the race. The dismissiveness in the responses from the general ownership base is telling. There is simply no appetite to fork out $600,000 to buy a single slot.
If that wasn’t enough, the unwanted negative reaction to the initial Everest marketing campaign, again demonstrates Racing’s on-going deficiencies in the vital areas of marketing and creative. Sport has provided commercial organizations with a very attractive and viable marketing medium. In the scramble for inking lucrative sponsorship and marketing deals, these organizations understand the importance of leveraging their arrangements and at the same time commissioning creative campaigns of the highest possible quality.
So it comes as no surprise to learn that apparently Racing NSW and the ATC are “workshopping” the whole Nintendo inspired animation concept including hail as the hero horse tries its darnedest to reach the summit with the intro to a Neil Diamond song playing in the background- were the music publishing rights cleared?- and earn it some much needed credibility. For one particular individual the stakes are high – very, very high.
Where racing in Australia chooses cut price “$2” shop campaigns to market and promote their sport and events, every other successful sport is rewarded for its multi-million dollar spends.