Opinions need to be constructive
Mike Deasy on planning racing’s resumption and the need for constructive opinions
There wasn’t much that racing’s “senior executives” could say after the government published its Our Plan to Rebuild document, announced by prime minister Boris Johnson in his TV address, on tackling the coronavirus epidemic.
And, in a statement of 400 words or so from racing’s Executive Committee, featuring members from the BHA, racecourses, owners, and trainers, that was pretty much how it was.
The government publication said, amongst other things, that there would be no return of sport until 1 June at the earliest. Racing’s executives “welcomed” the potential timeline for the resumption of sporting events, although they didn’t refer to it as “clarification”.
They repeated their core message that they would be ready for the resumption of racing on 1 June if that date held. Mentioning dates has, in the past, caused the BHA the odd problem.
They’ve had target dates which have come and gone which some have considered to be when the BHA intended to resume racing. In some instances, those opinions been made by people to further their own cause and in others it’s been a bit disingenuous.
The Guardian has today described the BHA as being “sent back to the drawing board”. That’s harsh. They’ve come up with plans which were always likely to have to be refreshed as nobody but the government could give the green light for some sort of sporting resumption.
And the green light has not been forthcoming for May, albeit that there was a flicker of hope based on odds offered on racing’s return this month. The flicker faded when assessment of the government’s approach looked to be ultra-cautious, however much they managed to shroud it in fog with Sunday’s TV address.
Someone who has let his views be known is trainer Mark Johnston, himself a victim of coronavirus, but now happily recovered.
He said: “It’s a couple of weeks later than I would have liked, but at least it’s a date.
“The government has said no sports [before 1 June] and that doesn’t make a lot of sense, what’s the difference between a race meeting and a construction site [where the government have now encouraged workers to return], apart from we’re outdoors and less densely populated. But if we’ve got a date, we can work towards it.”
It may seem not to make sense, not everything has in recent governmental communication, but there is another aspect which has to be taken into account. Public perception.
Getting construction back underway will be readily seen has contributing to the good of the nation. A workforce that can be back earning money. Materials needed from suppliers. Associated professional and skilled service requirements. And, above all, finished works which benefit the community, particularly the housing sector.
Quite rightly, there are qualms about construction workers’ safety, as there are in relation to racing, such as those raised regarding stalls handlers.
But in the great scheme of things, construction workers being back on site has considerable merit. The return of racing in some form would be welcomed by many, not least as a diversion from the mundanity of lockdown. And, of course, there are many whose income and businesses are dependent on the survival of the turf.
But comparing construction and racing is not a sound analogy. It’s not enough to say they both take place in the open. The bigger picture needs to be viewed by some in the sport, otherwise they risk the charge of self-interest rather than “we’re all in this together”. It’s not something with which racing as a whole can afford to be tainted.
♦ More on racing’s response to the government document in Racing Hub News Update http://wp.me/P8e3Dl-Mx
A disservice by the BBC
Anyone who heard Cornelius Lysaght’s farewell broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live would have listened with mixed emotions.
His selection of his 10 favourite races during his 30 years with the BBC was highly evocative. Reminders of his breaking key racing stories was testament to his journalistic prowess. And anecdotes about the people he met and the situations he encountered warmed the heart.
It is just a shame we had to listen, and that evoked an emotion of annoyance. The BBC has let go a highly knowledgeable and skilful sports broadcaster. Racing, a sport of some complexity, has lost a consummate and enthusiastic communicator. And the BBC is now bereft of someone who knew what they were talking about, which does its audience a disservice.
Racing comes to the fore at Ascot, Aintree, Cheltenham and Epsom. John Inverdale was a lynchpin in the Festival coverage but, he too, has said his goodbyes.
It remains to be seen if there is someone who can do these events justice. And it also remains to be seen if the BBC is prepared to retain its radio rights to cover racing. I believe they are due to come up for renewal this year and it wouldn’t be a surprise if TalkSPORT thought it was worth making a meaningful bid.
These scribblings recently pointed out that a worthy candidate to take over from Nick Rust as chief executive of the BHA would be Julie Harrington.
Currently head of the British Cycling, and formerly at the Football Association, she has served on the BHA board. Now her credentials have been mentioned elsewhere, and it would be easy to see here turning up in Holborn.