Should insiders run the greyhound racing industry?

A READER (Kondoparinga, which is the name of an up-market country homestay spot in SA)) made some useful points about the need for industry to better organise itself and react more positively when bad things occur. However, rather than spurring on state authorities to take on that responsibility, he urges the big clubs to speak louder. Here’s what he proposed:

“It makes sense for the higher level functions of the various state GOTBA/GBOTA organisations to be assigned to a national body, along with membership rights. The level of membership would then ensure that its voice could not be ignored; either politically or operationally”.

I must disagree. This idea has two wrongs trying to making a right.

First, GBOTA and similar organisations are groups of trainers or owner/trainers, whether active or retired. Such people are already in a position to have their voices heard, formally and informally. However, there is little or no evidence that they have sufficient qualifications to run an industry. It is a vastly different kettle of fish at the top of the pyramid, where progressive business concepts are paramount, to the task of organising race meetings. One of the large clubs, the NSW NCA, failed badly to do either, for example, costing the industry millions as it disintegrated. Indeed, there are any number of successful businessmen at the top of some clubs and all failed to achieve results at the higher level. Perhaps the system beat them?

Second, we have been there and done that. For many years it was common to see state board members come from clubs on an ex officio basis. It never worked. I have personally observed petty jealousies and narrow outlooks outweigh sensible decision-making. It is impossible to avoid bias and conflicts of interest and their backgrounds kept out potential fresh thinkers who might have done a better job. That is why, not long ago, NSW got rid of the concept, although it did not do a very thorough job of it (all members of the last board had relatively recent experience in racing, some in greyhound racing – there were no genuinely independent members at all) and all were sacked anyway.

Then there are other matters. The current national board is by any measure dysfunctional, partly because it has given itself power only over a limited portion of the industry and partly because it has to cope with competing and cumbersome state jealousies. Either factor disqualifies it as a proper representative of the industry. Of course, the big challenge is that the only people who can bring about change are those who are already sitting around the table. In turn, they are all nominees from state boards, some of which proved in 2015 that they were unable to manage their local responsibilities properly. Very circular, isn’t it?

An equally important issue is that experience tells us that, no matter which club official were to get the gig, there would be several others who neither trust nor accept what he says. Such is the nature of the beast. Incidentally, placing “industry representatives” (however defined) on the state board is one of the options facing the Special Commission in NSW. Again, that’s been tried and failed. So if it doesn’t work at state level it has no chance of succeeding nationally.

Anyway, adding more members to a dubious GA board system parallels the “solutions” recommended and implemented by investigators in Victoria and Queensland. Both claimed more bodies would fix the problem but still failed to uncover the real source of management failures. That takes us back to square one.

Yes, both state and national boards need major reform. Independence, transparency and accountability would be a good start.

(Note: This subject is addressed in the just-published report of the GRNSW Joint Working Group which requires more comment later on).

Track sense missing

Mostly, the Shepparton Cup heats on Monday night went to good quality dogs, albeit only one recorded a top time (Aston Bolero, 25.07). Once again (as in similar events at Ballarat and Warrnambool mentioned in these pages), much crashing and barging featured on the way to the first turn. A few well-backed dogs did OK but exotics were in the lap of the gods due to the interference.

Odds-on favourites Shared Equity and Black Frenzy failed to jump at their best and so failed to run a place. On the other hand, stewards queried the run of Legend (LAW in 25.27), wanting the trainer’s explanation for racing “above market expectations”. They should have queried the market instead. Legend started at 40/1 in both states but I had it rated at 8/1. In my view, favourite Black Frenzy was at ‘unders” at $1.90, given a poor box and good beginners all around it. Certainly, Legend improved a bit, mostly due to a lightning start (6.42), but there were three or four other dogs which theoretically should have been competitive with it but failed to measure up.

Stewards might have been better employed working out why Warragul Cup winner and alleged record breaker To The Galos ran so poorly in another heat. It even got edged out of 4th spot in the run home by a $36 outsider. (I still doubt the supposed record time at Warragul and have yet to hear an explanation of the huge difference between the semaphore board time and the “official” time (25.49 v 25.34. No other races in recent times have shown that sort of disparity).

Given the likely improved running, it is a pity GRV did not schedule the hooped lure for this meeting. That may well have given runners a bit more space and a chance of avoiding so many clashes.

In any event, the pattern of racing at all Victorian one-turn tracks tells us that there is a fundamental design flaw present in their layouts. To back up observations and stewards reports of interference, consider that First Four dividends (NSW) for the five Cup heats averaged $776. That is double what you might expect for cleanly run races. Never judge a track by the dog that spears out and leads all the way.

Past Discussion

  1. Bruce, The GBOTA contains owners and members of syndicates as well as active trainers. The profile of the membership shows several people with the qualifications you would desire. I will get a breakdown later.
    The current Federal push to have the NFP boards using independent Directors is mainly a push from industry particularly the objections to industry funds superannuation where these funds are seen as having an unfair advantage over share holder superannuation schemes as they have lower cost structures not available to shareholder companies  (principles of competition neutrality)
    Just for the argument above and conceding that the seven board model with three independents is the desirable model, then it would be more effective at the Greyhound Australasia level where the big savings can be made. From research I had done previously you can get an independent director for about $50K per annum, three would cost $150K per  entity. 
    Greyhound Australasia is a public company NFP and would come under the same requirements which are recommended for the clubs in NSW which in the main, have a similar structure.

  2. Bruce, The GBOTA contains owners and members of syndicates as well as active trainers. The profile of the membership shows several people with the qualifications you would desire. I will get a breakdown later.

    The current Federal push to have the NFP boards using independent Directors is mainly a push from industry particularly the objections to industry funds superannuation where these funds are seen as having an unfair advantage over share holder superannuation schemes as they have lower cost structures not available to shareholder companies  (principles of competition neutrality)

    Just for the argument above and conceding that the seven board model with three independents is the desirable model, then it would be more effective at the Greyhound Australasia level where the big savings can be made. From research I had done previously you can get an independent director for about K per annum, three would cost K per  entity. 

    Greyhound Australasia is a public company NFP and would come under the same requirements which are recommended for the clubs in NSW which in the main, have a similar structure.