How to drag greyhound racing into the 21st century

THIS report in Fairfax media is instructive. The West Indies, now near the bottom of cricket rankings, have decided to move into the 21st century and update their board structure.

“Once the undisputed world champions of the international stage, West Indies cricket is now in a state of disarray after 15 years of on-field decline marked by fighting between players and administrators, player strikes and pay disputes,” according to The Tonk (Andrew Wu).

“The embattled West Indies Cricket Board has been urged to follow the example of Cricket Australia as part of an overhaul of its “antiquated”, “obsolete” and “anachronistic” governance structure. Like the former CA board, which was comprised of state delegates, the WICB represents the six territorial boards of Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, Leeward Islands and Windward Islands”.

That old state-based system in the Windies is not just close to that of Australian racing, it is identical. And neither is working well.

The Australian Institute of Sport explains why this is so. It shows how the state-based or federated “governance structure is complex and unwieldy, and can be associated with ineffective and compromised decision-making characterised by vested interest. It also does not reflect the modern business environment a sport now operates within.”

“In many cases, the instruction on how to vote on behalf of a state association was based on how the decision impacted a respective state as opposed to how it benefited the sport as a whole. Where proportional voting exists under this structure, the argument is made that larger associations may collude with smaller members to block decisions based on the interests of their state rather than the sport as a whole.”

That’s why major sports have long since moved to a single national governance model. Racing is the only one dragging the chain.

It is probably no coincidence that racing is also the only one where governments control how the sport is structured. All the rest have learnt there are better ways of running things.

Customers forgotten – again

Here is a Victorian lesson on how to keep in touch.

GRV is calling for nominations for a spot on its 12-member Industry Consultative Group. They must have one minimum qualification – they have to handle dogs in one way or another.

Meeting six times a year, “the 12 person ICG will include participants (trainers, breaking in/primary educators, rearers, breeders, owners), Club and Greyhound Owners Trainers and Breeders Association (GOTBA) representatives and an independent greyhound veterinarian,” according to the media release.

The aim is to “improve the industry’s ability to advise and provide direct feedback to the GRV Board”. The sort of feedback they have in mind is not stated.

These sorts of groups are not new. Many have been around for yonks and are there for one main reason – government policy says instrumentalities such as GRV must have formal consultations with participants. In some cases they have been useful in tidying up clerical anomalies to do with nominations, grading and the like but, for the most part, they appear to achieve nothing much.

The subject also came up several times during the hearings for the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry last year – mostly as complaints about the failure to communicate.

Of course, if fresh suggestions do not agree with whatever the authority was going to do anyway, they will not happen. Bureaucracies are past masters at side-lining stuff that makes too much work or that might embarrass the Minister. And all racing authorities are bureaucracies, which is one reason that racing is gradually losing its way in a fast-moving, modern world.

In any case, a neat dozen is a very large committee. So large that it is likely to be less productive than one half the size. By the time everyone has had a say it is time to go home.

More critically, what good is an advisory group when it does not include anyone representing (a) the public or (b) the punters, who between them hold the entire fate of the industry in their hands?

What also might be forgotten is that the role of a manager (as opposed to a chief bureaucrat) is to constantly keep track of what the public or his customers are thinking. The ability to communicate in both directions is a fundamental part of a good manager’s CV. It should not need a special device to handle that job; rather it should be an automatic requirement.

Real Welfare

Another item that emerged in that Parliamentary Inquiry was the need to pay greater attention to socialisation of young dogs, including a suggestion that youngsters should never be kennelled by themselves but always have a companion.

Coincidentally, scientists on the current UK TV program on pet dogs (shown on SBS) have blamed erratic subsequent behaviour amongst problem dogs on their bad experiences between four and eighteen weeks of age. Something like a third of all UK pet dogs is shown to have psychological issues. Many of them are “rescued” from dog pounds where close attention is impossible.

These principles were also emphasised in the recent WDA report to GRNSW.

Still on the AIS

“The AIS Injury Study is looking for runners to participate in a research project on the role of genetics in exercise-induced injuries. This study aims to identify genetic variations that contribute to increased risk of, or protection from tendon and bone injuries sustained through participation in physical activity.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do something like that for greyhounds? On hocks, for a start.

A Classic Case

Stewards Report, The Meadows, 11 Nov, Race 7, 600m.

“All eight greyhounds collided soon after the start.”

Could there be a better illustration of the folly of creating bend starts? As mentioned many times here over the years, that 600m start is one of the worst in the business. Now the stewards finally agree. It seems the club is not interested so it’s up to GRV to do something about it. Sandown, too. And many others.

The first objective for any track design should be to keep the dogs apart.

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lone widow
lone widow
4 years ago

I think you are grabbing at straws Bruce to suggest that injuries like broken hocks are genetic or inherited.  The problems began when tracks were converted from turf to sand.  I’m not saying that turf was perfect it had plenty of other related issues.  Tracks had more banking on the turns and it could be increased to support the dogs if needed without fear of the track being washed away when it rained.  Then came the sand, a modification to a track designed (on average) in the 1930’s.  To me that’s like fitting tyres from a T model ford on… Read more »

NancyWeller
NancyWeller
4 years ago

“How to drag greyhound racing into the 21st century”.  My, how the wording fits the mentality of dragging the dogs into the gates.

There is no fixing a dying industry.  I just hope for the hounds, they are not the casualty.

lone widow
lone widow
4 years ago

Thank you for the post Nancy. Whether or not greyhound racing is a dying industry depends on future management, I believe it will continue.   I also believe that  the intervention of the lobby groups that exposed the live baiting issues has really benefited us all in greyhound racing.  We are now free of that practice with the huge fines and imprisonment now a reality.  With that advancement behind us  hopefully they (the lobby groups) haven’t gone away and left the job half done.  Let’s suppose the industry does fade away, there are still going to be 100,000 greyhounds out… Read more »

Dezzey
Dezzey
4 years ago

I too am flabbergasted that there has not been a rush to fix tracks.  A night at the dogs can be pretty horrific for a first timer when a poor dog breaks a leg.  And knowing the owner is likely too cheap to get it fixed makes it worse.  Fix the tracks so the only accidents will be freak ones. Force the greedy betting agencies to subsidise vet bills for broken hocks and give the dog a vip pass through GAP. Not much point reforming and having stringent welfare in place if dogs are regularly “being retired” at the usual… Read more »

lone widow
lone widow
4 years ago

As I have said in a previous post / after all the costs of mating, vets bills, rearing, breaking in then training, at 18 months of age it has cost me 50,000 dollars to get a litter of pups to the track.
If nothing has been done in the next 12 months to bring the tracks up to the standards required for the bigger faster greyhounds of today, then sadly I have bred my last litter of pups.

lone widow
lone widow
4 years ago

I think you are grabbing at straws Bruce to suggest that injuries like broken hocks are genetic or inherited.  The problems began when tracks were converted from turf to sand.  I’m not saying that turf was perfect it had plenty of other related issues.  Tracks had more banking on the turns and it could be increased to support the dogs if needed without fear of the track being washed away when it rained.  Then came the sand, a modification to a track designed (on average) in the 1930’s.  To me that’s like fitting tyres from a T model ford on… Read more »

NancyWeller
NancyWeller
4 years ago

“How to drag greyhound racing into the 21st century”.  My, how the wording fits the mentality of dragging the dogs into the gates.

There is no fixing a dying industry.  I just hope for the hounds, they are not the casualty.

lone widow
lone widow
4 years ago

Thank you for the post Nancy. Whether or not greyhound racing is a dying industry depends on future management, I believe it will continue.   I also believe that  the intervention of the lobby groups that exposed the live baiting issues has really benefited us all in greyhound racing.  We are now free of that practice with the huge fines and imprisonment now a reality.  With that advancement behind us  hopefully they (the lobby groups) haven’t gone away and left the job half done.  Let’s suppose the industry does fade away, there are still going to be 100,000 greyhounds out… Read more »

Dezzey
Dezzey
4 years ago

I too am flabbergasted that there has not been a rush to fix tracks.  A night at the dogs can be pretty horrific for a first timer when a poor dog breaks a leg.  And knowing the owner is likely too cheap to get it fixed makes it worse.  Fix the tracks so the only accidents will be freak ones. Force the greedy betting agencies to subsidise vet bills for broken hocks and give the dog a vip pass through GAP. Not much point reforming and having stringent welfare in place if dogs are regularly “being retired” at the usual… Read more »

lone widow
lone widow
4 years ago

As I have said in a previous post / after all the costs of mating, vets bills, rearing, breaking in then training, at 18 months of age it has cost me 50,000 dollars to get a litter of pups to the track.

If nothing has been done in the next 12 months to bring the tracks up to the standards required for the bigger faster greyhounds of today, then sadly I have bred my last litter of pups.