A Leaderless Industry Will Miss The Boat

Compare the two – airlines and racing.

By any measure, aviation is a flourishing, high profile business yet Doug Nancarrow, editor of Aviation Business magazine, has just pointed out that it was forever under attack due to community perception of its ”intrusiveness, noise and pollution”. He asked why the industry had not done more to mount campaigns “to deliver the positive side of the picture”.

He had an answer, too: “we have no single representative body, no aviation industry association like the Mining Council or the Farmers Federation to facilitate and deliver such a campaign”. And he is right. You might remember the mining industry’s recent successful campaign to beat back the Gillard government’s attempt to raise its taxes.

Admittedly, Nancarrow is skipping over a few points. There are some national groupings but they tend to be specialised and really are not briefed to charge ahead with national campaigns to further the industry’s interests. There are regional and world-wide groups, too, but they don’t impress the public much. In the end, each organisation spends all its energy on pushing its own wares. Even more so if someone else is competing with it. Consequently, there is no single person or body who can charge down to Parliament House or go to the public at large and make a case on behalf of the industry.

How alike is that to greyhound racing?

We have a national body – Greyhounds Australasia Ltd – but it has no power to do that stuff either. It could have but its members, the bosses of each state and territory, have not thought it worthwhile to do so. And commercial matters are definitely off the agenda. That philosophy is all their own work, no-one else told them to do it.

Even if they agreed to mount a marketing campaign, or make a public relations push, there is no system, no person or organisation available to look after it. Moreover, the industry has not even considered it worthwhile to set up an independent group to examine the technicalities of track design, or to evaluate breeding trends. And those are subjects GAL could handle under its existing rules.

If GAL had ever discussed those possibilities (and we don’t know because agendas and minutes are not published) each member would have to take the suggestions back to their home states and get their board (yet another committee) to think about it. Delays would be certain and agreements would be unlikely.

Consequently, the public will see only what it wants to see, or what newspaper headlines will scream from time to time, which you can bet will be nasty. Aviation will probably get away with it, mainly due to the huge, multi-media advertising schemes that are normal for that industry, as well as its obvious good record in safety and technological development. But greyhound racing will not.

For example, controls over drug use have made huge strides over the last 20 years to clean up the sport yet the blokes in the street would not have a clue about that progress. They know about footballers but not about greyhounds. Nobody has bothered to tell them.

The other codes are little better off, particularly not the harness people where ongoing frauds have been exposed, stewards fired, races allegedly “fixed” while its market share is dropping further and faster than the other two codes. The gallops have experienced one long succession of jockey malpractices and attacks on whips and jumps racing from animal lovers. Organisationally, both codes are similarly placed to greyhounds in that their national bodies are limited in power and ineffectual.

Perhaps it all comes down to the culture of the amateur raceclub, or even its dominance, and the flow-through of that thinking to the state racing authority. We will do our own thing, thanks.

Add to that the standard attitude of state governments which have failed to recognise that racing is a business and deserves to be treated like any other business.

But it is not working any more. TABs with their poker machine-like practices have taken control. Their shareholders are the real winners. Racing Ministers prefer not to hear any bad news, customers have gone elsewhere while state racing administrations keep things tidy but don’t do a lot more – even if they wanted to it would make little difference unless the whole country got behind them.

Yes, the money is still coming in, but arguably at a much slower rate than if modern management systems were in play. Even then, two states – Queensland and Tasmania – are, or will be, in financial strife.

Would you vote for a powerful national racing commission to build a new and revitalised industry? Or a national betting pool to provide everyone, but particularly the smaller states, with the potential to attract more and bigger customers. If so, tell your local Racing Minister. If not, keep moaning to your mates.