Not the way to ask the questions
An exasperated Mike Deasy on Matt Chapman asking Nick Rust the questions on the Opening Show
“Nick, two very quick questions, which would need long answers but you’ll have to cut them down”.
The irony would not have been lost on the viewers of Saturday’s Opening Show where outgoing BHA chief executive Nick Rust was fielding question on the state of racing’s nation, with Matt Chapman doing much of the interrogation.
The trouble was that whilst Chapman asked some of the right questions, he asked them in the wrong way. It wasn’t that he gave Rust an easy ride, but allowed verboseness to leave both Rust and viewers frustrated, if not irritated.
If people at home were getting impatient as Chapman not so much framed a question as painted a picture thickly laden with detail, you could sense others in front of the camera were keen for a bit of linguistic economy.
Chapman’s questions were posed, it seemed, regardless what Rust might have already said.
Of the questions asked which unnecessarily took up time was, with undertones of apparent criticism, why had snooker held its World Championship final with spectators on attendance but racing still doesn’t have spectators. It was, said Chapman, something every single view of The Opening Show would want to know.
With wry smile Rust began his answer. But Chapman wasn’t finished with the question – or rather he had but wanted to ask it a second time, leading to Rust having a Corbyn moment.
“Shall I try and answer again? Thank you very much.”
Notwithstanding that owners have now had a presence at the racecourse for some time, it had to be pointed out that racing came within 24 hours of having around 5,000 racegoers at Goodwood when the government had a last-minute change if mind and withdrew its permission.
Not the time for review
Luke Harvey asked what successes and failures would Rust look back on during his tenure in charge of the BHA. It was a question that looked as if it needled Rust as he’d still got four months to go before he hands over to his successor. Nearer the time of his departure is when Rust would review successes and failures.
If at some point new BHA CEO Julie Harrington considers how her time went at racing’s HQ, she starts with Chapman saying that she has already been told she will fail. “When she leaves,” he said, “we all know that we think she will have failed”.
Success or failure, the key to the performance of the CEO is do they leave the sport in a better position than when they joined it.
I think you have to go back two incumbents before you come across an administration where the sport stalled, when the governing body was the BHB.
Personality was a key issue and a big ego can get in the way when progress is reliant on teamwork.
It might be more pertinent to consider not just how the head of the BHA performs, but whether or not those holding high office in racing’s key stakeholders are up to the mark when it comes to sharing power.
Meanwhile, the main thing we learnt from Rust’s Opening Show interview is that this week were going to learn more about racing’s recovery plan, spearheaded by the full resumption of raceday crowds and the full resumption of raceday experience.
To that end, racing is looking to stage trials with racecourse attendance ahead of the government’s 1 October target of crowds returning to sports events. There’s also a distinct likelihood that race meetings will comprise longer cards at fewer courses to save on overheads.
Wherever you look, businesses are cutting costs and the media is no exception. The latest organisation to announce cutbacks is the Guardian and sport, with racing in particular, is going to be hit hard.
Members of the sports department, from editors to freelancers, wrote to the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Kath Viner, raising concerns that “immense damage” will be done to the reputation of their coverage by “drastic” cuts.
Reduced sports coverage will be undertaken by fewer sports journalists and it’s unclear if anyone will remain to exclusively cover racing.
Even if you are not a Guardian reader, the Guardian’s coverage is highly important to the sport.
Many with concerns about racing, from bookmaker practices to matters of regulation, talk to the Guardian’s racing team because it has a reputation for championing those who are victims of questionable activities.
Chris Cook, racing editor Tony Paley and Greg Wood provide some of the best racing journalism on offer.
Given the opportunity, they’d ask Nick Rust right questions in the right way.
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