Ex-footy boss offers hints to greyhound racing

David Gallop has been boss of a couple of national sports but is now busy building his own organisation to promote more use of digital techniques in sport. The Australian (Mar 29) quotes some of his warnings.

“Australian sports need to be careful not to cut costs too much or risk losing market share, according to former soccer and rugby league boss David Gallop, who says the days of taking a “scattergun” approach to communicating with fans and members also has to end.

Gallop says he has been impressed with the resilience of many Australian sports during COVID-19, but warns with corporate budgets tight and broadcast revenue likely falling sports need to look for a better way to monetise their relationship with fans and members to shore up their revenues. That, Gallop says, needs to come from having a better understanding of fans and paying members, what they will spend money on and how they will engage with the sports”.

So where can the code improve?

A classic illustration is the OzChase formguide and results service in place in all states except Victoria. It’s hard to read, badly laid out, unfriendly and the worst collection of public information I have ever seen in my entire life. For example, if you want to see what happened at any meeting you will need to dial it up one page and one race at a time and you will not be able to download it readily because it is not available in a digital format – in fact nothing is. NSW also adds to costs by selling the ancient deFax formguide at the track (to trainers only, of course) which is in a different format again and often lacking important information like sectional times.

On top of all that, if you lack the current version of Windows it will distort the pages and refuse to give you videos or dog histories – even if you are properly registered. OzChase does not chase customers but turns them off. Gallop would be horrified.

All this stuff is available in spades in Victoria but not anywhere else.

Greyhound promotions tend to come in fits and starts – or sometimes not at all. Victoria has periodic community tie-ups and, together with NSW, has managed to organise some occasional free-to-air (FTA) TV space. All good but most efforts tend to favour the interests of participants rather than customers or the public. Only very special occasions will get fans to the track.

State authority publications concentrate almost entirely on what Mary or Joe – the trainers – have been doing at home with barely a hint of how the upcoming race will turn out. This is pretty boring to outsiders, most of whom would rarely look up the website in the first place. Why should they?

In Sydney, GRNSW spent an unknown amount of cash to advertise scrappy 280m races in The Australian – a newspaper which neither talks about greyhounds nor publishes any fields or results (and hasn’t before or since). The Sydney Morning Herald suddenly stopped mentioning greyhounds in any fashion some months back but still benefitted from full page ads on re-homing from GRNSW. Thanks a lot. Only The Telegraph caters for greyhound customers but that’s a paper which far more than half the population would not touch.

Does the industry know anything about its customers? No – it seems not. As I pointed out last week, authorities might occasionally issue a brief media release about betting trends but never any details which could explain those trends or better describe what is going on at different tracks or over different distances. Occasionally we hear about surveys of public attitudes from one state or another but, again, no details at all. In fact, GRV refused to let out one of theirs on the ground that it was “commercial in confidence”. Really!

The best we can do is scrounge some data from TAB results or spend hours wading through the corporates’ or Betfair’s files. But you would have to add it all up yourself. Not practical.

Please re-read that first sentence in the Gallop quote (the days of taking a “scattergun” approach to communicating with fans and members also has to end). That exactly describes the code’s problem.

None of which addresses my pet concern – the refusal of the industry to mount publicity campaigns to explain a magnificent and historical breed to a generally ignorant and often antagonistic public. Therefore, messages are falling on barren ground. A few folk love their greyhounds but the man or woman in the street mostly regard it as either a mobile poker machine or turn up their noses at the mere mention of the breed.

Of course, there are solutions. Start talking to that public on a regular basis. Charge every participant with the responsibility of convincing friends and neighbours about the wonders of the breed – at a rate of one a week each. Put managers in charge, not bureaucrats and certainly not participants. Get rid of the monotony of committee decisions.

And here’s one that really worked at the time. Uncle Ben’s once ran a dog caravan – including a greyhound mum and pups – around the country’s shopping centres, a week at a time. Everyone loved it, especially the kids. But it ran foul of the company’s budget restrictions and was lost forever. Surely it would not take much to rebirth it. Much better than advertising in The Australian.

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