It’s happened before and it will happen again. The selective nonsense pumped out by the ABC 7:30 program on greyhound practices does nobody any good, including the ABC and its shoddy journalism. Unfortunately, the subject will rear its head once again when the inquiry by the Greens/Shooters alliance in the NSW parliament gets up a head of steam later in the year.
But it’s not much good protesting now. The milk has been spilt. However, note that virtually none of the mainstream media bothered to pick it up, as they did for the announcement of the equally poorly-based political inquiry nearly two months ago. Clearly, they regarded the program as half-baked and old hat. Even so, the anti-greyhound groups jumped at the chance to push their biased and often inaccurate viewpoints. They don’t seem to realise that greyhounds actually like to race – it’s in their DNA – just as humans like to compete on the golf course or the football field.
Indeed, the RSPCA, supposedly experts in the field, should be pointing that out.
But why did it occur in the first place? It seems some bright spark in the ABC hit upon the idea on a slow news day, perhaps prompted by some personal feelings about the greyhound. It’s not unusual for the ABC to create its own agenda and then look for the means to support it – any means will do.
But that is always going to be a possibility. The real key is that the idea, and the TV presentation, fell on poorly prepared ground. Poorly prepared, that is, by the state racing authorities as well as Greyhounds Australasia, which tend to concentrate on insiders rather than the public.
While the ABC is notorious for its slanted views, it would have had little background information to guide it in this case. What it did get from officials was after the event and largely put to one side because it did not fit its theme. Sadly, public support for the greyhound breed and greyhound racing is minimal, largely because they do not understand what it is all about. Too many industry insiders – many of whom were rightly offended by the program – fail to realise that this is how the real world works.
The vast majority of publicity about greyhounds always has been nasty – dating from the days of live hare coursing and later re-inforced by periodic stories about drugs, injuries and the like. Ironically, the code’s attack on drug use has been arguably its greatest single advance over the years, and its biggest success, even by comparison with other sports. Yet the general public does not know that.
The good news is that this is fixable. Not by pumping out media releases after the damage has been done but by educating and informing the public beforehand. Not with a quickie effort but with a continuing program to establish and maintain a positive image of the breed, its long history, its unique purity and its athletic prowess.
That is the responsibility of greyhound boards and managements everywhere. It’s their first responsibility, really. But they are not carrying it out. They are clearly not able to bring to bear the commercial, marketing and PR skills required. Besides that, they operate as individual fiefdoms and the only national body – Greyhounds Australasia – it noted more for what it does not do than what it does. Too often, greyhound authorities are hired or appointed as administrators, not modern business managers. Bureaucracies are all very fine and necessary things – and we need them,too – but they are no good at flogging stuff. They do not move with the times but simply react to them – as we have seen again here (which also explains why greyhound organisational structures have not changed over the past 50 years or so).
If that capacity is lacking then the industry must go outside to employ it. What is needed is an ongoing contract with a skilled PR/Marketing organisation to develop and push a national campaign to provide all that missing information, to demonstrate to the public all the positive aspects of the business, and to ensure that media people have easy access to data, ideas, concepts and contacts should they need it.
The code is now paying out around $100 million a year in stake money. To fund the contract it needs to take out 1% of that cash and invest it in the future. That’s about $15 out of the average prize. That would not only ensure the code is seen in a better light but it would undoubtedly return serious dividends over time as more people see greyhound racing as an attractive recreation – whether as owners, trainers or punters, or even as workers. That sort of outcome will never be achieved by accident. It has to be built.
All states must put their shoulder to the wheel. Assign responsibility for the project to somebody with commercial nous and let them get on with it. Authorities need only to set it up, fund it and support it.
Something the ABC Missed
Marvellous to see old stager Burnt Fuse – 4 years 8 months – rack up its 37th win from 97 starts at Ballarat, running a best-of-night 22.27 in doing it. And an equally smart 30.43 at Cranbourne by Rockadore at 4 years 2 months.
There should be more Veterans races in other states. They are all win-win, especially for owners. They would also do no harm to the industry image, given the nonsense being pushed at the moment by the ABC and so-called animal lovers, who come out of the woodwork on these occasions.
With an energetic national program organised, the opportunity would be there to tie it in with Masters series in other sports, just as the Miata-Black Caviar association returned huge dividends. The stories would be endless.
Go for it!