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FROM THE SHERIFF'S DESK - WORKING THROUGH A DIFFICULT SITUATION IS NOTHING NEW TO RACING

By John Schreck | Wednesday, February 10, 2016

John Schreck, a former Chief Steward in both Sydney and Hong Kong, has seen both the colourful and the dark sides of racing. His wealth of experience and his deep knowledge of racing matters across the board is unquestioned and the reputation he built as a racing ‘lawman’ remains firmly entrenched in racing’s history. Shreck’s personal blog, ‘From the Sheriff’s Desk', appears exclusively on HRO.

The furore that has erupted over Racing Victoria’s trialling of a thirty minute gap between races and the impact it had on the continuity of Saturday’s racing schedule, in particular, is unfortunate.

The clash of metropolitan races used to happen fairly often in my time but, fortunately, common sense prevailed and in recent years the sport has been very good in managing clashes far better than they used to.

However, with the Victorian off-track coverage (racing.com) being different from all of the other states (Sky Racing) there are now separate commercial interest s in play.

For that reason, if Victoria’s trial is extended, as seems likely, Saturday’s clashes might continue to happen, regrettably.

The off track coverage is obviously a huge factor and that is where much of the discontent lay on Saturday.

In truth though, while it is easy to condemn Sky for showing Dalby instead of Caulfield, it is difficult to blame Sky altogether.

They are a commercial operation in the own right. They have contractual commitments and they also have to do the best they can for their shareholders and make decisions accordingly.

That is part of their Charter and that’s not going to change.

Neither is the competitive rivalry between states.

As far as states working together are concerned there has always been competition, particularly between Sydney and Melbourne.

That is in the culture of the two cities. Historically there has been rivalry between the two in all sorts of different ways, much of it healthy competition, and I don’t think that is ever going to change.

So there are at least two real sticking points which impact on any negotiated solution to the current problem ... the often different mindsets between states and the separate off track broadcasting operations.

Obviously, on occasions such as this you would hope all parties would be able to find a common sense solution.

In reality that is probably going to depend on the off track broadcasters somehow getting together ... but that is obviously going to prove to be a bit difficult.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation might be, Sky putting major races on their secondary channel doesn’t help their stocks with punters, it does not help the turnover on the races that have been ‘demoted’, and the whole situation of setting race times that clash, in the end, severely compromises the experience of the racing fans.

The fans are the people really suffering in the short term and you can understand their anger.

There numbers are already diminishing so it is not a good idea for racing to treat the fans the way they are at the moment.

The sport is already under such completion for the gambling dollar. That is only going to get worse.

As I've said before, the sport needs innovation and I would say that the Victorian experiment is one worth having.

Yes, there are points for and against it, but if Racing Victoria can get the data they are looking for and analyse it, then we all might know more moving forward.

Change of any sort is a delicate and seemingly always sensitive subject in racing and the response to Racing Victoria’s decision to undertake the trial in question is very much testament to that.

But that doesn’t mean racing should stop looking for ways to improve its product and customer service.

Some methods and proposals will certainly prompt debate and argument but, if it’s focussed on racing’s interests and finding a way to secure a better future for the sport, we might find it is all worthwhile.

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Photos: Graham Potter
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