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Fri Apr 25 10:14:35 SAST 2014

Where is the sport in this game?

Mike Moon | 12 October, 2012 06:120 Comments

RACING is a simple game. Chaps pit their horses against each other, running flat out on a nice stretch of grass. Put a few crazy little guys on board to keep the ponies running straight and urge them on; add some funsters to watch proceedings and punt on who'll be fastest and there you have it.

It's a classic manifestation of the primal sporting instinct.

So what's with the corporate mergers and demergers? Business plans and profitability arguments? Industry-government memoranda of understanding?

And how the hell has racing become subject to a protracted Competition Commission inquiry under Section 21 of the Competition Act (Act No89 of 1998)?

Okay, racing is an industry, has business principles and must be subject to rules.

But you feel the sport is being swamped by corporate shenanigans. That deadly combo of power, ego and greed appears to be killing the horse, the game and the fun.

Recently, when it was announced that Durban's Clairwood racecourse was being sold off for an industrial park, I was asked the perennial question: "What's happened to racing?"

My answer was long and even more complicated than the last time I delivered it. I asked myself: "What has happened to racing?"

Yes, yes, we know maintaining racecourses is expensive and rationalisation is needed. But the list of courses being scrapped is getting mighty lengthy, and one can't help wondering how healthy all the slimming down ends up being. Are anorexia, bulimia and wretched death imminent?

Clairwood and Arlington are doomed. They follow Gosforth Park, Newmarket, Milnerton and Bloemfontein - all scrapped.

To compensate, additional track surfaces are provided at Turffontein, the Vaal and Scottsville, and are promised at Greyville and Fairview. But diversity, colour and soul have been lost.

In the days when amateur clubs ran racing, even though it was in itself a business operation, venues were easier to keep going thanks to a simpler betting off-take system, gate receipts from big crowds and generous rates rebates from municipalities keen to gain profile and promote sporting and economic vibrancy in their regions.

But bossy, avaricious politicos forced racing to corporatise. And while capitalism brings bounty, like all forces of nature, it can be destructive and must be approached with care.

Other things affected racing - urban casinos, lottery and TV sport. But I'm getting into that convoluted explanation again.

If you want to hear it, the gory detail will be laid bare at the Competition Commission public hearing in Pretoria over the next few weeks. The Cape-KZN Gold Circle demerger, the Kenilworth-Racing Trust fiasco, Phindi Kema's audacious plans to acquire racecourses, Purple Capital's plea for a stake, bookies crying poverty, whinges and whines will be part of the saga.

Sitting in judgment on this will be appointed stiffs who don't know their pastern from their p**ph*l.

Me? I'll be watching actual horses race; more elevating company.

TURFFONTEIN, TOMORROW: PA - 1,5,9 x 1,10 x 6 x 1,8 x 2,3,10 x 5,9 x 10,13 (R144)

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Where is the sport in this game?

For Commenters Consideration | Please stick to the subject matter
Fri Apr 25 10:14:35 SAST 2014 ::

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