JAMES MATHERS REPLIES TO JOHN MESSARA

james

Dear Sir,

At the outset I compliment John Messara for his communication of 16 October 2015 in respect of the achievements of Racing Australia to date. The achievements are not insignificant.

Equally it must be recognised that the task or tasks ahead won’t be easily achieved given that Australia has eight principal racing authorities who operate under their own legislation and account to their respective state governments and stakeholders as opposed to Racing Australia. That in itself is a huge hurdle.

Further it must be stated that the racing industry and sport in Australia has great bones and great foundation which will allow it to continue to grow and prosper. It is well supported by a passionate and possibly unique culture, a passionate group of industry workers (trainers, jockeys, track work riders, stable hands, veterinary surgeons and support staff, stud managers and staff, farriers, transport industry employees, race club employees and track maintenance staff, administrators including race club boards and committees, the media et cetera), an enthusiastic band of racehorse owners, sponsors, punters, race club members and racegoers and of course state racing boards.

I think Mr Messara would recognise that there is a lot to do and while the initial work done was both necessary and appropriate, it’s only a start.

I support all of the endeavours and policy changes as outlined in Mr Messara’s communication.

I now turn briefly to further issues which in my opinion should be carefully reviewed as a matter of priority:

Integrity

The integrity of the industry should cover all boundaries. Mr Messara’s communication really relates to integrity surrounding drug use on racehorses. I would submit that the word integrity should be applied to every aspect of the racing industry which includes without exception a review of the conduct of all those connected with the industry in some capacity such all officials, administrators and related persons within the industry. The question of integrity should cross all boundaries. I note Mr Messara refers in this communication to both the breeding and racing industry and talks of unprecedented commercial and regulatory opportunities. Please leave no stone unturned when looking at this issue. Perhaps a good place to start could be the question or issue of secret commissions being paid in the sale ring. I don’t know whether this is an issue but again if it is, it is an issue relating to integrity and the industry needs to fully consider this because it may be a concern…a criminal concern.

Equally the industry must be prepared to examine all transactions between related parties involved in the industry. This is paramount and it does go to the question of integrity.

Animal welfare

There is no question that this is a live issue however in many ways I think much of the blame for this issue has been unfairly shelved back to Racing Australia, the respective state bodies and possibly race clubs. There is no question that the regulator has a role to play but it is a high-level role or an overarching role. I actually have no or little concern in respect of welfare issues within the breeding and racing sector. I do however have an issue in respect of horses that have been retired from racing who won’t have a future in the breeding industry. I think most of us would agree that retired racehorses must be guaranteed a comfortable life ahead however I believe that guarantee and responsibility vests with the owner of the horse. Once the horses purchased it is the responsibility of the owners to look after the welfare of their horse at least until such time as they no longer own it. Owners must be made aware of their responsibility both by auction houses, vendors, syndicate managers, trainers and to a lesser extent the regulator.

Media rights

In my view the recent media rights issue between Racing NSW, Racing Victoria, Sky and the race clubs was been poorly handled at many levels. The industry formerly had a reasonably united position through TVN which has now been destroyed. I believe the industry will regret this decision and the direction it is taken for some decades. An incredibly valuable industry asset has been destroyed. Further to this and as a result of the media rights decision, it is my opinion that the funding model which the industry has enjoyed for several decades through its relationship with Tabcorp is possibly in jeopardy going forward particularly if Tabcorp were to lose its exclusive wagering license in Victoria. I am not critical of Racing Australia’s role in this matter however it is important that Racing Australia exert a strong influence over the respective parties when these critical decisions are being considered.

Media exposure

I believe the industry in total should carefully review its media release policies. I certainly understand and respect the need to be transparent however I seriously question the logic and the objective in releasing such detailed media eg the recent cobalt issues. In my view much of it has been unnecessary and only brings to the attention of the public serious issues of integrity which have certainly always been of concern to the industry. I don’t support “cover-ups” but equally I question whether the current industry’s media release policies are valid in this modern day particularly having regard to the effects of social media. Do the media releases themselves bring the industry into disrepute?

As I said in the beginning Racing Australia has made a good start but there is much to be done. There is no doubt in my mind that the industry and sport has a brilliant future.

Yours faithfully,

James Mathers

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11 Responses to JAMES MATHERS REPLIES TO JOHN MESSARA

  1. Bob McHarg says:

    I read RacingB*tch all the time. In James Mathers introduction he mentions every industry participant except Oncourse Bookmakers . As an Oncourse Bookmaker for the past Fourty two years, I find this unfortunate and worrying

    Bob McHarg

    • James Mathers says:

      Bob
      I agree 100% with your criticism . It was an unintended omission. I long for the old days when we had a vibrant and exciting betting ring.
      Apologies!
      JM

    • Bob,
      I thought that I had replied this morning….obviously not. This was an important oversight and thank you for bringing it to my attention. Oncourse bookmakers are critical to the industry and a day at the races. I agree with you 100%. I long for the old days when we had a vibrant and exciting betting ring.
      Pleases accept my apology.
      Regards,
      James Mathers

  2. Dik Balian says:

    I think you’ve been a bit diplomatic and soft Mr Mathers.
    The main thing Mr Messara should be concentrating on is racing, and in Sydney we are treated to 5, 6, 7 and 8 horse fields if we’re lucky on a Saturday. So perhaps next time you have a discussion with him and his board, you might ask them what they’re doing about the long term future of racing. That’s racing, NOT breeding, just honest competitive racing with large competitive fields.
    You might also ask him why we need to keep raising prize money in the feature races to obscene amounts. My theory is it’s to benefit the residual value and future value of horses in the breeding barn.This is of course a cynical view I have because as we all know major studs are the usual beneficiaries of the high value of horses after they’ve won these races.
    Which brings me to the next question you might ask him.
    Does Mr Messara think there is a conflict of interest in his role as a racing administrator and being a major breeder?

    • James Mathers says:

      Dik
      Thanks for your comment. As John Messara was good enough to engage in the Racingbitch I didn’t feel it appropriate to criticise Racing Australia, John Messara or his response.
      JM

  3. Michael says:

    Every time I read something from the racing industry put out by a big wheel in the industry and then something else by someone puffing themselves up I realise why racing is basically on a downhill run in Australia.

    In James’ reply there he puts the punters in as an afterthought . As far as Messarra goes I doubt that he would be aware that people actually bet on the plaything that he calls the industry .

    No punters = no money= no industry . The millionaires can only keep juggling the balls in the air for so long.

    There are two no brainers in Australian racing that even a toadstool could see would give the industry half a chance . We must have a national tote ,give the punters something to bet into every day ,have the facility to put on big jackpots ,put the corporates ,who are basically parasitically sucking every dollar they can out of the industry and ripping off any punter who wants to have a decent bet…instead of cosying up to them,put them out of business ,and/or make them have to put their ass on the line to get business . This has been the gnawing leech on Australian racing since I was a small boy ..a non competitive paramutual set up . It’s like buying a suit at David Jones and walking past Myer and seeing it 100 bucks cheaper just after you bought it. How long do the lunatics who run racing think that the punters are going to suck it up and keep being tossed out by the corporates and playing russian roulette on the totes.

    It’s so silly ,every time I talk to a racing administrator they just don’t get it.

    The other no brainer is having one head honcho and a board to run racing in this country . The amount of money that the duplicitous roles in the states are sucking out of the industry is mind boggling . Plus they get it wrong most of the time . Run it like a proper business ,keeping in mind that the livelihoods of all these high powered sectional interests who populate decision making in this country rely on the largesse of the punter for their businesses and their salaries.

    It’s too easy isn’t it ? A national tote and a Racing Commission with a CEO.

    I haven’t even started . No one goes to the races any more if any of these blatherers hadn’t noticed ,because there’s no incentive for anyone to go . Sure spend millions to bring overseas horses out here ,our best PR is in our own backyard as this year demonstrated . Cup week was bigger and better before all the PR people and media hangers on got hold of it with free junkets and wanking with overseas trainers . The hype and expectation was bigger ,the betting was certainly bigger.
    If you had a national tote you’ve got the capacity to lure people back to the track ,on a permanent basis ,with incentive divvies and deals.

    When I read the guff that Messarra put up and the reply from whoever he is I realised that racing in Australia presently has no hope . Neither of them are remotely aware of the major problems

  4. Michael says:

    Just as an observation I see the last statement from Mr. Mathers there was that the industry and the sport has a brilliant future.

    Crikey . Has he not got eyes and ears . I was born and bred on punting ,no one goes any more ,my punting friends are completely disillusioned with the management of racing in this country . They even let the groundsman loose on the only week in the year where they ever get any publicity . Anyone wanting a decent bet gave up on race 3 on the the first day. It was a disgrace.

    Mr Mathers ,if you’re reading this ,take off the top hat and tails and have a realistic look at all of the reasons why no one wants to bet ,or can’t bet ,and the continual mismanagement throughout Australia of what was once a great sport ,the bickering and one upmanship between states which just peeves the punters.

    Moreover ,have a look at NSW racing which is a cot case as far as interest goes . Only a victim could bet on it during the week and on the first 4 races every Saturday ,the 2 million dollar races at the time of the year when there’s a bog track every time I’ve been going up there for the last twenty years , no CEO worth his salt would have sanctioned that.

    You guys are taking racing down the traditional British route which has a similar level of boredom . It’s self evident that that’s because you think that way .

    You don’t remotely understand why most people these days would rather bet on the footy than go to the tote and have a flutter . And the only ones betting with the corporates are all your cream who lose every week and get sucked into putting in more than they can afford.

    The industry in this country is going out the backdoor.

    Is there one racing administrator out there who understands that ??

  5. Michael

    Thanks for your reply.

    Its hard to disagree with many of your comments other than to say Racing Australia really doesn’t have sufficient powers to introduce the sorts of reforms you correctly suggest. John Messara stated that as did I.

    We both stated that Australia has eight racing authorities who operate under their own state legislation. Therein lies a major problem in terms of nationalization of the industry and sport.

    In regard to my reply to John Messara it was designed to be both respectful and constructive. John didn’t have to engage with the Racing Bitch but he had the courage to do so. I complimented him for that. Further I would be very surprised if he did not take all of our comments on board albeit I’m sure he was already mindful of them.

    We all agree racing in Australia has lots of problems. Lets all hope they can be fixed. I’m confident they can be.

    Regards

    James Mathers

    • Michael

      Yes I do believe the industry has a brilliant future because it has great bones, a great foundation and is full of incredibly passionate and committed people who love their horses and horse racing.. It’s people like you, Bob McHarg and Dik Balian who care enough and take time to express your opinions and concerns.Your concerns are well founded.

      I agree there are a myriad of problems facing the industry and that possibly the industry is in need of a particular style of leadership but that can all be fixed.

      Please stay with it.

      Regards

      James Mathers

  6. Michael says:

    Well James you sound like a good guy ,my comments though perhaps disrespectful weren’t meant to be .
    They’re born out of a frustration at seeing the game I love completely disintegrate due to a colonial fifedom mentality in the states and the various State Governments . I’ve been banging my head about these issues with racing administrators for over 30 years ,but nothing ever changes . I can assure you and any other racing administrator reading any of this that the hardcore punters are completely peeved with the direction of racing in this country. I brought my son up on racing ,he can’t be bothered anymore ,it’s a lot easier betting on the footy ,racing has lost its intrigue.

    Forget about bringing crowds along at carnival time because they’ll come and go like the wind ,the first thing administrators need to do is to work out how you get the punters back on a consistent basis ,the people who can fund the show . There are a couple of glaring things that should’ve happened 20 years ago and yet we’re no closer . Racing is losing its foothold because it’s easier and potentially more profitable (in people’s minds) to bet on a sport or go Tattslotto. Racing has never reacted to the competition ,let alone woken up ,we used to have it all on our own

    Bring the incentive back , I could think of dozens of ways . Social punters are fine but they don’t tip any money in . All the really big punters I know bet on the football now . The corporates don’t want the big punters on gallops and the totes can’t accomodate them . This is racing’s biggest misstep . As a punter I don’t care what horses are racing or who’s training it , I just want some big even fields to bet on and competitive horses. A fair go . The Melbourne cup used to be a great race to bet on ,now it’s just Russian Roulette , lots of different names that create newsprint but you guys need to wake up ,no one really cares .We’d all rather a fair dinkum Aussie race ,if the others want to come let them qualify properly and pay their own way totally . In the Caulfield Cup this year Complacent had had it’s previous 6 starts in Group 1 or 2 ,wfa , 1st or 2nd every time ,and couldn’t get a run when plodding hacks got a run . It was nonsense. Common sense out the window
    .
    Anyway James it was very gracious of you to reply when I dropped a bucket on you ,I know how hard it is dealing with these matters ,I really appreciate you taking the time.

    Btw ,I’m not just an angry old punter ,I speak to lots of young guys and you’ll find the issues I’ve raised could go a long way to bringing them into the game as well.

    Cheers

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