In a classic example of the malaise that continues to surround integrity issues in Victorian greyhound racing, two Racing Appeals & Disciplinary Board positive swab inquiries have only just been made public by Greyhound Racing Victoria, a full 3 weeks after the hearings were held and determined.
It was Lord Hewart who first coined that famous phrase “it is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance, that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”.
But more accurately, if Lord Hewart had been specifically addressing issues of integrity, justice and transparency, he may have reconsidered his words and supplemented the phrase “in a timely manner”.
The idea of delivering bad news late is not new.
It has been a well recognised concept for over 50 years known as the “good news early bad news late phenomenon” and is especially evident with regard to financial reporting and stock markets.
With regard to company reports delivering bad news to the market, it has been demonstrated time and time again, that the tendency is to delay reporting of what the company or the markets might consider bad news. The root cause of the delay might be found in the juggling act of balancing regulatory requirements to report bad news on the one hand, with the marketing aspirations and public relations profile or reputation of the company on the other hand.
Summed up; the deliverance of bad news by a listed company can be a conflict between integrity and marketing – reputation vs regulatory responsibilities.
In Victorian Greyhound Racing, Greyhound Racing Victoria is the regulatory body charged with upholding integrity in the industry, and is also the same body that assumes responsibility for marketing the “product” – integrity vs marketing.
Evidence of the conflict between integrity and marketing are demonstrated by Greyhound Racing Victoria’s own annual report. For the 2011 financial year, GRV spending on integrity related expenses was $1.95 million. Marketing expenses in the same period accounted for $1.83 million. But when marketing costs notionally attributed to other departments are added in, the marketing spend ranges from $3.47 million to as high as $4.92 million – two and a half times integrity spending.
What the annual reports can’t explain is why Greyhound Racing Victoria with a software system that has cost in excess of $6 million, feel the need to fall in to the trap of the “good news early bad news late phenomenon”?
Taking news from this week to demonstrate the extent of the problem, both positive swab inquiries originate from incidents that occurred in September 2011. According the Racing Appeals & Disciplinary Boards (RADB) reports, both hearings were held on 7th February 2012, a delay of 5 months. While it is true that positive swab proceedings and investigations can by definition take some time, what remains inexplicable is why Greyhound Racing Victoria took 3 weeks to convey the RADB findings to the public. The RADB hearing report was not published until 28th February 2012.
Why would it take 21 days to publish a simple PDF file on the GRV website? Is adding a simple link beyond Greyhound Racing Victoria’s$6 million software solution or was it just “bad news” delayed?
What might be termed “good news” doesn’t seem to suffer the same fate.
When Major McCheese won the first race at Shepparton last night to become the 100th pink winner of the GRV’s curent Go The Pink Dog promotion, the news was published to the GRV website within minutes.
In this classic demonstration of the phenomenon, integrity is delayed 3 weeks, marketing is almost instantaneous.
Compare this to GRV’s contemporary body in New South Wales, Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW). While not perfect, GRNSW manage to report integrity issues prominently on the home page of their website, but also publish them as a matter of urgency. As an example David Pringle’s recent positive swab finding was reported and published by GRNSW the day after the hearing.
And GRNSW go a step further by notifying the public as soon as a positive swab is confirmed, giving advanced notice of the impending hearing. This practice is one that has also been adopted by South Australia and Western Australia, who also report impending inquiries and publish findings in a timely manner.
Quite the opposite of GRV’s delayed “bad news” practices, the open and transparent processes of these state authorities regarding positive swab reporting inspires confidence in the integrity of the industries in those states.
In light of the serious integrity issues in Victorian greyhound racing in recent times that have seen integrity officers such as stewards and a grader resign, be stood down or sacked amidst allegations of betting; Greyhound Racing Victoria must do more to rid itself of the culture that allowed the endemic improper behaviour to proliferate.
It must be more transparent surrounding integrity issues, and it must recognise that justice must not just be done but it must be seen to be done in a timely manner.