The Turf Authorities of India is an association of all the individual Turf Authorities of India (TAI). The unified body is supposed to work for the interest of the sport taking each other into confidence. The problems if any confronting the sport should be the priority of the TAI. Unfortunately, despite the presence of the umbrella body, the Turf Authorities of India, each turf authority is pulling in different directions much to the detriment of the sport.
The Chairman of Turf Authorities of India rotates each year, with the host of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup weekend races getting that honor. This year, RWITC hosts the Invitation Weekend races. Because of the disruption caused by the Pandemic, the entire invitational races will be held aa a one-day affair on April 18. This is welcome because since this will ensure that there will be no break in this racing carnival for more than 50 years since the Invitation Cup was introduced to decide the Champion of Champions though the race dates have on occasions been moved from the traditional first Saturday and Sunday of March because of the force of circumstances.
POST COVID SCENARIO
Post-Covid Pandemic, a number of things have happened which are not necessarily for the good of the sport. The pandemic caused hardship to every segment of horse racing but the Turf Authorities of respective clubs seem to have lost the plot. The ego-driven clubs are not working in unison. They have taken the racing enthusiasts for granted. In their ego, these clubs are not hesitating to kill the sport by disrupting the inter-venue betting operations which had been the lifeline of the clubs. They believe that they owe no explanation to the loyal racegoers which have stood by these clubs, enriching them by their enthusiastic participation and by their honest practices of patronizing the club tote pools. The punters have suffered like any other taxpayer and the clubs have no qualms about increasing the entry fee and other sundries to augment resources but at the same having no guts to increase the contribution of members by way of the annual subscription or in any form of contingency. It is all because they carry a vote which elects these worthies to rule the roost.
The one good development that happened post-Covid was the permission from governments to start online betting on the existing system of totes. Unfortunately, the same has not helped augment resources for the club, with the self-defeating attitude of each club having its own platform instead of going for an all-India tote which would have been a great boost to the sport. What is more, most of the clubs which are running online platforms have not even integrated the online betting with its tote operations conducted at the premises of the club. The online betting is conducted as an adjunct and as such, the collections are poor, resulting in a lukewarm response from the public.
The Bangalore Turf Club was the first club in the country to get the permission for online betting and also had the dubious distinction of becoming the first to lose it even as it began its operations. Following a PIL questioning the online betting, the government withdrew the permission. The government perhaps had granted permission without following due process and the lack of coordination between the government and the club did not help in a proper presentation before the High Court. The government took the easy way out. The PIL was filed by an ex-employee of the Bangalore Turf Club.
Unfortunately, the Bangalore Turf Club doesn`t believe in maintaining good equations with anybody. The mandarins have alienated the various organs of the sport. Today, the media coverage is zilch compared to what it was when we were heading the sports departments of the leading newspapers. Our passion for the sport makes us continue with the promotion of the sport through our websites. However, the turf clubs, especially the BTC, does not recognize our role and is putting impediments in the dissemination of news to arm the punters with the best possible information.
BREAKDOWN OF RELATIONS
Be that as it may, what has been disconcerting is that the off-course betting operations between BTC and RWITC have come to a grinding halt much to the disappointment of racegoers at both these centres. The racing at these two centres is most popular with wide patronage. The reason for the cessation of the inter-venue betting activity between these two clubs is the unresolved dispute about the royalty and the inability to sort out the matter amicably. It may be recalled that when the inter-venue betting was introduced in India, it was the initiative of BTC and the acceptance of the same by RWITC which saved the clubs from possible financial ruin.
The dispute between RWITC and BTC arose about the manner in which the Royalty was to be computed. There was a suggestion not to pay any Royalty for the number of days that each club conducts and pay Royalty for the extra days that any of the clubs involved conduct. The barter system has been prevalent between BTC and HRC for a number of years and the same has been accepted by all the clubs except RWITC.
The RWITC was apparently upset that the Royalty agreed upon had not been paid citing financial crunch. Also, RWITC is also unhappy with the way the 23 per cent Royalty is calculated which is in variance with what was practiced in the past. The RWITC also believes that the quality of their racing is such that the other clubs are benefitting by wide patronage and they are refusing to share the profits by adopting continuing with the existing formula. The Turf Authorities appears a divided house with the clubs having separate arrangements, with the TAI being reduced as a defunct body. Last year, BTC paid up the pending dues which were received with great fanfare by RWITC including cutting a cake at the paddock. Instead of cake, this year, the relationship has been cut!
NO MEETING GROUND
The meeting between BTC and RWITC which eventually led to the stalemate was reportedly not friendly. The RWITC has decided not to grant signals to Bangalore Turf Club. The racegoers at Mumbai haven`t been affected thus far as racing is still spectator less. The ego played a critical role in talks not reaching any conclusion. As a result, the Bangalore Racegoers who love Mumbai racing are forced to either illegal avenues or bet on other centres simply because betting on Mumbai racing is not conducted by BTC. Instead of conducting continuous negotiations, the attitude appears to be one of teaching each other a lesson. Both these premier clubs are equally guilty of disregarding the racing public and allowing their egos to rule. Nothing in the world is impossible if the two sides sit with an open mind, honestly work out a solution with facts and figures as their defense.
The question is: Will they? Sometimes people you think don`t want to talk to you are the ones waiting for you to talk to them. Great People talk of ideas; average people talk of small things and small people talk of wine. The negotiations between these two clubs should take place, in an environment of trust and reconciliation. The clubs owe it to the racing fraternity.