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By Graham Potter | Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Graham Potter is the managing editor and founder of horseracingonly.com.au. Calling on thirty-one years of international experience as a racing journalist and racing photographer, Graham’s personal blog, ‘Moving Along’ will appear every Wednesday on HRO.

The response to suggestions made in last week’s blog was significant both in numbers and content. It is clear that, as with the state election, regular people (in this case racing participants) are no longer prepared to helplessly accept falling victim to authority’s folly.

Most realize the difficulty of the task ahead for both the new administrators and themselves but, equally, most have now drawn a line in the sand. Their mood is easy to interpret and their message to the incoming racing chain of authority is unambiguous. ‘Act responsibly. Act professionally. Safeguard the best interests of racing at all times. Treat us with respect and we will support you. Anything less will be a deal-breaker.’

But even with those lines clearly defined, there is a sticking point in any ‘let’s work together’ proposition which has to be eliminated before vital, full, forthcoming input from regular participants can be channeled to good use.

That problem is oh so aptly summed up by the sentiment contained in following couple of sentences which were told to me with some conviction, ‘I liked what you said last week. It’s a good job you said it because we can’t. You know what happens to licensees when they say something that racing authorities don’t like.”

That reference, and there examples that confirm the claim has real substance, is a sad indictment of licensees lot in life. They are the engine room of the industry yet, instead of being valued, they are treated as slaves to the cause. Without them there would be no industry yet, instead of being encouraged, they live under a ‘step out of line and get stamped on’ policy.

From facing a charge of bringing racing into disrepute for supposedly talking out of line, to picking up a $100 fine for a late jockey declaration, licencees are expected to take their punishment. Yet racing officials can make a bad call, again there are examples of this, and their actions go unpunished … and authorities can wax lyrical promoting their own in-house agenda without being reeled in for their verbal excesses.

In this argument it is true that licencees have been the whipping boys of the industry and it is time for a whip rule to be changed once again, only this time it will be on a basis of the change making good sense.

I mean … let’s get real.

Who is best placed to tell you what is happening in racing? Those in the trenches … or authorities in their luxury offices? Who has most to gain from getting things right? Those battlers who rely on the industry to earn out a living … or highly paid officials? Who is showing commitment against the odds? Those who get up at three o’clock in the morning in all kinds of weather to ensure that racing keeps moving … or those who work nine to five in air-conditioned bliss?

So for God’s sake, surely it is a no-brainer that racing authorities should not only start listening to these core participants, but invite them into the discussion fold without fear or favour.

In the process those authorities can distance themselves as far as they can from the perceived ‘police state’ mentality that has ruled in the past and thus pave the way for productive negotiation.

The curtain has to be brought down on the idea that having an opinion or being a licencee was your choice of options (you couldn’t have both).

This time the whip has to be taken away!

Racing authorities are charged with serving the racing industry which, by implication, means they must take the position of the various licencees into account in their decision making process.

If there is to be a future fair exchange of views, both sides will have to have big shoulders.

Authorities will have to embrace a wider outlook and that must include accepting criticism as being part of the territory. They must finally leave the ‘bringing racing into disrepute’ issue at the door barring a real radical attack. Opinions are just that … opinions, and everyone is entitled to have one.

And yes, you should be allowed to both have an opinion and be a licensee which, the record shows, was not always the case in the past.

Licencees, for their part, will have to practice acceptance and patience. They will have to accept that not every decision will go their way and they have to step back and allow time for meaningful changes to be implemented.

One last point on this subject. As the ‘them’ and ‘us’ sides hopefully start to merge together, everyone should be aware that there will always be the lunatic fringe on either side of proceedings.

If the process going forward is genuine, the personal power tripper in management and the perennial whinger amongst the participants will hopefully become more and more recognizable and isolated as the months pass.

Now is the time to side-line them and eliminate the toxic value they bring to the scene.

At the end of the day all true racing enthusiasts want to push the scrum in the same direction.

By now, under any scrutiny, it is obvious why the sticking point in any ‘let’s work together’ proposition has to be eliminated. You simply cannot have core licensees walking around believing that, ‘It’s a good job you said it because we can’t. You know what happens to licencees when they say something that racing authorities don’t like.’

That takes away their dignity and any motivation they might have to go out of their way to help the cause by putting fresh ideas into play.

And boy, do we need fresh ideas!

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Graham Potter
Graham Potter
Queensland's Own www.horseracingonly.com.au Queensland's Best