The five-yearly review of the NSW Greyhound Racing Act is under way. This is a normal statutory requirement but has been pre-empted by the recent “independent” parliamentary inquiry into greyhound racing and will be further confused by the upcoming state elections where both major parties have been playing musical chairs with ministerial duties.
Then there is always the traditional attitude to inquiries of any sort. It was echoed recently by the secretary of Action for Public Transport (SMH, Jan 6): “An old adage of politics is not to hold an inquiry unless you can be certain of the outcome.” That may be in doubt here.
The government has yet to finalise its reactions to the inquiry, which reached much touchier conclusions than usual, but the Premier indicates it is subject to “budget considerations” – meaning, mainly, should it or shouldn’t it harmonise racing taxes with those applying interstate.
Nevertheless, the department (Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing) continues on and has published a useful discussion paper to assist contributors to the review. Apart from anything else, it provides a good history of greyhound administration from WW2 onwards.
Normally these things don’t amount to much as changes are never high on the priority lists of bureaucrats. They prefer the status quo. However, we did have some improvements last time, leading to what the government called a more independent board membership.
Nominally, that was true. No current club members now occupy spots. However, it is notable that every one of the GRNSW board members, including the two just replaced, has previously served in racing organisations of one sort or another. Conversely, there are no members who are completely free of industry experience.
Generally, this is contrary to normal commercial board practice where at least one or two outsiders are considered desirable to have as directors. The aim there is to infuse fresh thinking into the system and to offer a more objective view of the organisation’s performance.
Greyhound people typically don’t like this much. Rather, they keep asking for more representation from participants – “more dog men on the board” is the catch phrase. Indeed, the parliamentary inquiry, following several submissions, also asked the government to consider adding two participants to the five-person board.
Unfortunately, 60 years of experience shows that does not work very well. In reality, it was a specific reason for moving to an “independent” board a few years ago, thereby eliminating the inevitable conflicts of interest. Even electing one or two participants leaves the office holder in debt to his constituents, whether or not their views are also of value to the industry as a whole.
The administration of racing – all codes – is divided into two main streams: economic or commercial development on one hand and regulatory functions on the other. The review is asking if those two tasks should be handled by one or two different organisations.
In that vein, it might be remembered that a previous attempt to split the responsibilities (for harness and greyhounds only) failed to generate any efficiencies. In fact, costs went up.
The other main issue is whether or not the current management and governance structure is good or appropriate. That’s not a hard one to answer – up to a point anyway. Racing – again, all codes – have much the same style of organisations yet it is remarkable that all have continued to lose their way, particularly over the past 20 years.
Market share has been falling steadily, first to casinos, pokies and the like, and now to sports betting. Patronage is also waning as serious customers desert the cause, to be replaced by poker-machine refugees. Breeding is in decline, despite all the waffle about financial incentives. And average field quality is also in decline, pressured by TABs (meaning Tabcorp) insisting on the codes running more races even though there are fewer competitors to fill them. To cap it all, the wagering climate is a mess with all operators trying to grab a bigger slice of the business. Nobody seems to know how to control it all.
The interim conclusion has to be that existing management systems cannot cope with modern demands. Therefore, change them. But, to what? Well, that’s a tough one, but one thing is clear: racing’s normal management-by-committee system is a relic of the ages and should be dumped. To succeed, someone has to be responsible but that will never happen as long as you use a committee.
So get your ideas in to the review. The deadline has now been extended to February 13.
Stewards Still Struggling
Sandown, January 8, Race 2.
“Dyna Norfolk (7) crossed to the rail soon after the start checking Hashtag Selfie (5), Xtreme Gretel (3), Earl Bale (2) and Weblec Rose (1). Hashtag Selfie (5) crossed to the rail approaching the first turn checking Xtreme Gretel (3), Earl Bale (2) and Weblec Rose (1)”.
Steward seems to be having an each-way bet here but they failed to run a place. Aside from a slight brush between the two “offenders”, any problems incurred by the inside dogs were all their own work, mainly because they began slower than the two leaders. They were not checked by the two crossing dogs.
Horsham, January 6, Race 7
“Magic Diva (7) crossed to the rail approaching the first turn, checking All Inn Black (2) and Gitcha Rich (1)”.
Totally wrong. Magic Diva never touched the other two dogs, which never broke stride at all.