Playing musical chairs is yet to work for greyhound boards

Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) is arguably the leader of the pack when it comes to the industry Australia-wide. In the post-Four Corners climate there are plenty of people involved with greyhound racing wondering if those in charge of running it really are making the necessary, and sometimes quite difficult, decisions and changes needed to bring the industry back into equilibrium.

My own feeling is the state governments of NSW and Victoria did the correct thing in setting up new faces for the boards of GRNSW and GRV. The new seat warmers in both states have been handed the poisoned chalice, but as long as they receive the support of those in government and are prepared to weed out those employees (particularly the so-called ‘managers’) who obviously failed in their appointed tasks, then hopefully we’ll see some serious rejuvenation.

Sadly, the state election in Queensland with the resulting ‘shocked-to-be-in-government-again-so-soon’ Labor Party has meant the shambles that is the All Codes system in place up there is set to keep greyhound racing retarded if not downright emasculated into the foreseeable future.

The GRV website has a quite lengthy page covering the issues of ‘governance’ and ‘integrity’. Reading between the lines doesn’t fill me with much confidence about where we’ll be in coming months, although I hope my pessimism turns out to be off the mark.

Under ‘Governance’ it notes, ‘Following the 2012 Ombudsman’s Report, significant changes were brought to GRV’s governance processes, including:

  • Replacement of the majority of the Board
  • Appointment of a new CEO in Adam Wallish
  • Appointment of six new General Managers…
  • An organizational restructure to align the areas of integrity, racing and welfare

OK, so let’s look at what’s being said here. The Ombudsman’s Report was tabled three years ago; the Four Corners expose came about nearly three months ago. The board was replaced (sound familiar?), new managers appointed and ‘an organizational restructure to align the areas of integrity, racing and welfare’ took place (Orwellian doublespeak meaning we engaged Sum Dum Wally, Melbourne’s premier Feng Shui exponent and he advised us to reposition the filing cabinets). In other words, we moved the deckchairs around on the Titanic and still hit the bloody iceberg.

It goes on, stating that after this 2012 report ‘a number of changes were made by GRV to ensure the integrity of the sport.’ Included in those changes were, ‘The establishment of a dedicated Investigations Unit [and] a marked increase in the number of stewards and compliance officers.’

That ‘marked increase’ means there are now 15 full-time stewards and 24 casual stewards as well as one full-time investigations manager, and two full-time greyhound welfare compliance and education officers. And still we slammed into the iceberg.

Yet, the GRV states, ‘There are more than 3500 kennel inspections conducted each year, there is regular monitoring of betting activity and dialogue between wagering operators and the stewards department [and] In 2014 GRV established the independent GRV Integrity Council to oversee GRV’s integrity function.’ And the iceberg just smiled knowingly as the GRV Titanic ploughed right in.

Using a figure of 250 working days a year (so excluding weekends and public holidays) the GRV numbers suggest it is making 14 kennel inspections per day. All well and good, but just what does a ‘kennel inspection’ really mean? Because whatever it is didn’t stop the practice of live baiting occurring. So, there is a flaw in the methodology.

The systems put into place after the 2012 Ombudsman’s Report appears to have failed, and failed on a grand scale. I suspect there were, and maybe still are, those in positions of some authority who misguidedly believe/d that if someone like a Darren McDonald was publically outed as a live baiter this would cause great harm to the industry. Well, we’re witnessing the results of that short-term mindset.

As the American businessman Peter Drucker, considered one of the founders of modern management theory, was quoted as saying, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” It’s pretty obvious that since the major changes outlined by the Ombudsman in 2012 a kind of paperwork efficiency may have been achieved (eg 3,500 kennel inspections a year), but effectiveness has failed. That may well be because those ‘efficient’ people haven’t been as concerned as they should have been with ‘doing the right things’.