Racing is going through turbulent times. Dwindling attendances and the crippling effect of GST have resulted in a severe financial crisis all over India. The faction-fighting has also seriously affected the running of the sport and there are allegations of the integrity having been compromised. Former Chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club Vivek Jain, in a chat says that he believes that there is a magic wand that protects the sport and though it may take a few years for the sport to recover, it surely will. The following is the full text:
Question: Racing is going through critical times due to the financial crisis brought about by GST, dwindling attendance and lack of trust factor. Do you think that racing will pull through this crisis?
Answer: I have always believed there is a magic wand that protects the sport, and it may be rough for a few years, but a solution will emerge
Q:Turf clubs like Bangalore Turf Club and Mysore Race Club are heavily dependent on income generated through racing only. Can these clubs, in the long run, manage to bail out of the crisis as there seems to be no relief in the sight of in terms of reduction in GST?
A: Yes, BTC and Mysore face a huge challenge, unless relief comes in the way of a lower GST. They must look at corporate sponsorships in a much bigger way and work with the State to partly monetize their non-racing areas and assets on a revenue share with the Government. A temporary reduction in stakes and getting back the bookmakers may be necessary for the short term.
Q: Do you think that administrators have the power to muzzle the Press if there is criticism? Do you think administrators need to show greater maturity in accepting criticism and try to change?
A:I have always viewed the media as partners in our effort to promote the sport. I have been subjected to stinging criticism often, but mostly overlooked it. I would not muzzle the press and would make every effort to get them on board. That said, the media must also behave responsibly and talk about the positives of the sport. Turf Administrators face huge challenges and run a difficult sport. A more meaningful dialogue, keeping aside petty politics will be the only answer to this vexatious problem. Criticism must always be fair and without any bias, or else the divide will only deepen.
QWhat are the steps that the administrators should take to restore the health of the sport of racing?
A: Keep aside egos, one-upmanship and be sincere to their position. Most are concerned only at winning the next election, forming alliances that get their friends the Chair. There must be regular and honest dialogue with the State on matters of policy. Reforms in stewarding, the electoral process and having a strict code of conduct are the need of the hour. Partnerships with corporates, the media and the hospitality industry are necessary to keep the image of the sport at a high level. Decisions have to be made without fear or favour, The owners must get a better deal and the magic of owning a horse and the economics of syndication must reach a broader audience. In fact, the politics at Clubs is so distressing that the time is not far when alliances with international sports and racing bodies with deep pockets to run racing in India, may be the only way to salvage the sport.
Q:Can there be any end to faction-fighting which principally is the cause of the downfall of racing?
A: Sadly no. I have seen at close hand the detrimental effect of factions in the management of Clubs. How many who get elected are really interested or make any significant contribution to the welfare of the sport? I resigned from the RWITC Committee, even after being elected, for the very reason that I had no stamina left to fight the system. Alliances were created just to oust me from the Chair and to bring my votes down. The new system of E-voting was allegedly misused and abused only to get certain people elected, I had no place in this environment, after giving my life to the RWITC. I just could not fight the games that were being played. New doors have opened for me, but my love for the sport remains as before.
Having been let down, I have decided that should I ever choose to re-contest for a seat, it would be as an individual, representing the interest of members and the fraternity. I have had enough of fighting elections as part of a team. Factionalism must end, and individuals must be elected on their singular merit. I know I may never be elected as Chairman in such a scenario, but that is fine too. I gave away my Chair two years ago to Zavaray and rejected offers to carry on as a team, but without being Chairman. I have never favoured such “deals” and stepping aside was the best for me. I just could not see myself being effective any more, and I know many, including illustrious past Chairmen, felt I should not have resigned, but now even with the benefit of hindsight, I feel I did the right thing, without a doubt.
Q: Can the administrators ever come together in the interest of the sport sinking their differences?
A:Sharan, this is academic, Coalitions that are formed with a deeper purpose, do not last long. Firstly, the TAI must sink their differences and act unitedly in the interest of the sport. Coming together at individual clubs is an idealistic dream. Sooner or later a faction will be formed to stub the other out. The RWITC Committee today has possibly a 7-1 majority in favour of the Chairman. The year seems to have gone well for this team., and one can only hope the unity (especially in my absence) stays for a while.