Taking A Shot

The other day my 8-year old grandson, Johnno, took my photo while we were lunching near the beach. He had grabbed his father’s mobile phone, pointed it, pressed the button and that was it. Later he e-mailed the photo to me. The colour and the composition were great on screen, despite lots of variables in the original background lighting.

At just about the same moment Eastman Kodak was going into bankruptcy in America. That dynamo of film and photography throughout the 20th century could no longer cope. Films had become old hat. The Kodak Brownie or shots taken on the moon using Kodak film are no more than memories.

Oddly, it was Kodak that invented the digital camera in the first place but the board’s corporate strategy preferred to concentrate on its long profitable film products, and left others to develop digital devices to the degree we know today. But Kodak got its priorities wrong and is now paying the price. Employees are out on the street and the company is trying to sell off the bits and pieces.

All of which brings into focus the development of Australian greyhound racing (or, indeed, all racing). It is now just over 84 years old and 81 of those years (less outside NSW) have used the same model – a collection of raceclubs, each formed and run by local enthusiasts and headed by a state authority mostly made up of representatives of those same clubs. Only more recently have board members been more or less independent, although the way they are and the way they operate has remained unchanged.

No genuine authority exists, only a group of state delegates that tries to co-ordinate a few technical subjects but ignores stuff that affects the very survival of the industry. As Kodak did.

Australian experience suggests that the last 80 years will not be a good guide to future success. Already the big hitters have moved on – Australian , Rugby League and (shortly) Cricket Australia, for example – to all-powerful national commissions. They have also started to move in the direction of privately owned clubs, where needed. All of which may be part of the reason that those sports bring in huge fees from TV and sponsors while greyhound racing pays through the nose for coverage.

The prospect of going down that road needs two big shifts to occur in racing. First, for greyhound people to want to . Note that only the VFL’s original co-operation allowed the AFL to appear while ARL clubs had to approve their commission’s formation after much to and fro. The same goes for cricket.

Second, state racing Ministers will have to agree, and convince their Treasurers that a growing industry will produce more taxes than a static one. That should not be a difficult task – again, providing they want to do it.

But failure to take those steps will confine all codes of racing to the sins of the past – flat or negative betting growth, declining average field quality (and field size), smaller attendances and the continuing diversion of once keen fans to other options, including sports betting, casinos, retirement, and sometimes death.

Modernising the club structure might be harder again, considering historical government bias against anything remotely commercial, or the mythical fears of mafia-like intrusions into the game. Yet both are dated views and do not seem to worry the administration of casinos, for example.

Perhaps a half-way house might be constructed? Anything would be better than the dead end racing now finds itself facing.

Greyhound racing has fast dogs, well trained. But Kodak had fast film, also well made. Didn’t help them, though.

“(Kodak) appears unable to make the transition into the 21st century. Five years ago it was unthinkable that this business legend would find itself in a bankruptcy situation.” Professor Robert Burley, Ryerson University, Toronto (quoted in SMH Jan 21 2012).

Superbowl Ad Spurs Anti Greyhound Racing Ire

While in America, it is interesting to note that a shoe manufacturer, Sketchers, will be running one of those multi-million dollar ads during the Super Bowl at Indianapolis in a couple of weeks time.

Apparently, it features a man and a greyhound, much to the chagrin of one of those anti-racing lobbies, which is trying to get the ad banned. They hate greyhounds and any form of racing with animals. They were largely responsible for the shutdown of Massachusetts’ only two greyhound tracks a year ago, after convincing a majority of the state’s citizens to vote their way.

Beware the snake in the grass – but also remember to keep the grass mown.

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