Breathing a sigh of relief on staying with ITV Racing
Mike Deasy welcomes a long-awaited renewal of the ITV racing contract (hopefully, without tempting fate)
It is possible that we might now be able to breathe a sigh of relief that racing will continue to be shown on ITV for another three years.
It has been a protracted series of imminent then subsequently dashed hopes of an extended agreement, with blunt negotiations, standoffs and even a lawyer’s letter.
The polite public-facing statements of how pleased everyone is with ITV Racing coverage and its audience numbers and how pleased ITV is to be showing racing belied behind the scenes antagonism.
But, for both sides, anything other than the continuation of racing on ITV was a lose, lose situation.
The sport did not have other free-to-air broadcasters knocking on its doors and ITV has a series of high-profile sporting events including one, when it is run, that has one of the country’s biggest TV audiences – the Grand National. It also has, for the time being anyway, valuable bookmaker advertising.
Only last week, 1.2m watched Stradivarius on ITV win the Goodwood Cup on a Tuesday afternoon
What was amusing, if it weren’t so pathetic, were the comments posted on social media as the news of the extended contract filtered through.
For every call for him or her to be dropped, there was a counter-call of appreciation.
I’ll not get into the personality game. There is no one on ITV who makes me want to turn over. Anyway, I like the sport too much for that to spoil my enjoyment.
That wasn’t quite the same in the last four years of Channel 4 coverage, I call them the wasted years, which I think had more to do with the production company’s ethos than the individuals concerned.
There were times when I thought presenters and pundits were trying to escape from a straightjacket.
No such straightjacket from ITV who are doing as much to support and promote racing as anyone else. Thank heavens the doom merchants who worried that racing would be lost on the “minority” ITV4 were proved wrong.
I’d love to remind some of them, such as a mouthy bookmaker and respected racing journalist, of what they said around four years ago when ITV was in the running to be the new free-to-view custodian of the sport.
There have also been calls for ITV to show more racing from Ireland. This they are happy to do but there are some contractual issues that get in the way.
When racing is shown on the main ITV channel, it is also aired on Ireland’s free-to-view Virgin Media 1 channel (it used to be called TV3). But rival state broadcaster RTE has the rights to Irish racing, so it can’t be shown on Virgin Media 1 via ITV.
No such problem if racing is on ITV4, as Virgin Media 1 don’t take ITV4 coverage. So there’s the limitation to Irish racing on ITV.
Stewards’ enquiries – what’s the point
What is the point of having stewards at the racecourse holding enquiries into careless, or otherwise, riding if subsequent appeals to an independent panel overturns their verdicts?
Last week an appeal by Robert Havlin was upheld after Yarmouth stewards had found him guilty of careless riding on Swift Verdict and suspended him for 10 days
There is some irony in the name of his horse.
In the time available to the racecourse stewards, they found that Havlin failed to take sufficient action to stop his horse drifting left and when the horse did drift, he used his whip in the right hand causing it to move further left.
The stewards considered the interference to be “considerable” as it put Tom Marquand’s horse Dreaming Blue effectively out of the race and caused Harry Bentley’s horse to nearly fall.
They informed Havlin of their decision and then provided a more detailed verdict in writing. It was the closest the racecourse stewards came to having the luxury of time.
Havlin appealed, a route some thought risky as there was potential to increase the ban to 14 days.
The independent panel came to a different conclusion to the Yarmouth stewards, reached after two hours of viewing race-recordings, hearing evidence, and thorough deliberation.
Leaving aside the thought that the Yarmouth stewards might have got it right, it leaves onlookers scratching their heads as to the point of racecourse stewards trying to come to a decision with limited time and resources available to them.
What if they felt the interference should have resulted in a revision to the places? What then?
It now seems that we have a holding position of suspension (with or without revised placings) before an independent panel takes a more detailed look and, judging on the number of successful appeals, chucks out the racecourse stewards’ verdict.
It also leaves the racecourse stewards wondering what is the point of their looking at and judging such incidents if chances are that their decisions are going to be overturned.
A swift verdict might be what’s required at the racecourse, but it is pointless if it is only a temporary one.
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