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Post Time with Dan Gall

Post Time

In early January as I was watching the World Junior Hockey gold medal game between Canada and the United States, I felt terribly disappointed at the end, when after three hours of incredibly exciting hockey, we watched the gold medal awarded with a passive, slow and boring shootout.

It was like the four periods of outstanding hockey with all those great goals, hits, plays, passes and shots accounted for absolutely nothing, and that the medal could have been awarded right at the start of the game if only the officials did the shootout first.

Such are the rules of international World Junior hockey. Hmm…

I understand the challenge of playing and operating within international rules and regulations for global sports (e.g., hockey, the Olympics, soccer/football, etc.). The official governing body has to take into consideration each country’s rules, review why they are there, and how a framework of regulations can be created for all participating countries to agree on and participate in.

Obviously this is no small order and, at times, once rules are established, the actual sporting event may end up being a watered down version of the game, and can prevent or hinder the sport from showcasing its best to the world. (aka, the World Junior Hockey gold medal game).

This got me thinking about conversations that have been had since the beginning of time and more recently with members of Standardbred Canada, related associations, and industry regulators.

Why can’t the standardbred horse racing industry agree on enforcing standardized rules and regulations that all participants and jurisdictions can abide by across the country?

Why is a twist of a rule and a slight variation of another, allowed from province to province in a sport where there is so much emphasis placed on strict and precise controls? From the barns and paddocks, to the stopwatch, and all the way up to the judge’s review.

When asking if our sport should be governed by one set of rules I also ask myself, “What is the right thing to do?”

In my opinion, bringing consistency, ease of understanding, interpretation and promotion of a universal set of rules for harness racing would be beneficial for the judges, owners, drivers, trainers, and the fans. All would be playing on a level field no matter if the horses race at Fraser Downs or Red Shores.

One set of rules for one sport in one country may also encourage a willingness and openness for more provincial and national competitions as we work together to market and promote our sport.

Is it so difficult to agree on consistent rules for a national sport like horse racing? I am not so sure it is.

First, it starts with identifying if there is a need to have universal rules for the Canadian harness racing industry. The answer to that may be found by looking at all other national sports to see if there are different rules from province to province or jurisdictions. How is football, hockey, golf, curling, soccer governed? Do they use a set of regional rules or operate within a framework of national regulations?

The next question to ask: Is this something the industry wants? Do we want consistency and stability in the rules and regulations for the Canadian harness racing industry? The only people that can and should answer this are those that operate in the industry day-to-day.

If the answer to the above is “yes” then the next obvious question is why has it not been done? And how do we drive this and move it into a priority queue so that it is addressed and gets done.

That’s why Standardbred Canada is launching a national vote on whether our members want to see one set of rules for all racing in Canada. We want to make this question as simple and pure as possible and allow members to either vote “Yes” or “No” on whether you believe it will help or hinder the industry by having one set of rules. We also want to know your opinion on what the industry needs to focus on the most; consistency in licensing, officiating, regulating, or all of the aforementioned.

From now until our next edition of TROT we encourage you to visit the Standardbred Canada website and take a few seconds to answer these questions, and we will tabulate the response and share the results with our members.

If there is a an overwhelming response to move forward with this, the plan would be to present the results to the Standardbred Canada Board of Directors and ask for a motion that we present and work with our horse associations and provincial regulators to determine the best way to create national rules and regulations for the harness racing industry.

If the answer is mixed or no, then our members have spoken and Standardbred Canada will move on to other areas that you deem are important to you and our sport.

Either way, you will have a say, and will lead the way in shaping our industry for our future.

Dan Gall
President & CEO, Standardbred Canada
dgall@standardbredcanada.ca

3 Comments

February 6, 2017 - 6:07 pmWe used to have only 2 sets

We used to have only 2 sets of rules in Canada where all racing from Quebec to the west coast was conducted under Canadian Trotting Association rules and all racing in the Maritimes was conducted under USTA rules but then the various Provincial Governments got involved probably looking for another way to get more revenue and we ended up with the present mess of a multiplicity of Provincial regulatory bodies all making and enforcing their own rules. And yes there should definitely be one set of standard rules but we are never going to get 10 provinces to agree on that because we can't get 10 provinces to agree on anything like pensions or healthcare or energy or anything else!
Now to the funding ideas - One of the major mistakes the racing industry made was the FREE ADMISSION thing. The perception of course is that the show is so bad we can't get anybody to watch it unless we give it away. Free parking and free programmes and maybe free coffee, tea or soft drinks would have been OK but still charge admission. How many Free Admissions do you get to NHL, MLB, NBA, CFL, MLS games or Nascar, or any Theatres or Cinemas etc? And again I know it's too late to fix this mistake.

February 6, 2017 - 3:45 pmI agree with you as well Jim.

I agree with you as well Jim. I have worked at and brought several ideas to try to increase attendance at the raceway here in Truro. I came up with a similar plan about fans owning part of a horse for the night. I suggested a few times that instead of increasing purses by 5% we take that same 5% and make a fans purse for that race and draw "owners" for those races. This could be done from a ballot you fill out in the scorecard (which increases those sales) to losing ticket stubs. Either way when a fans name is drawn they will at least buy a win ticket or combine on the horse (increasing the overall bet - which produces a larger profit which could result in a farther purse increase so the owners get the results they want anyway but a better long term avenue is created) One thing for certain, the fans would increase as they would be into the excitement of the race and that itself is another opportunity to get new fans to the industry.

This idea is not as important in the larger markets but here in the Maritimes it can greatly help and is needed. Fans are dwindling quickly as no new ideas have really been brought out to attract new younger fans to offset the ones that are leaving or dieing off.

As for a universal or at least country wide set of rules, that is another area that is almost guaranteed to be supported. As an example, at other large tracks, when two or more entries are in a race by the same ownership group they are stabled (exceptions are made for large stake races where the integrity would not be questioned as to cheating). This fact (rule) is also posted in every scorecard. Yet, here in the Maritimes, because we have smaller fields and fewer owners there is a Maritime rule that allows horses that are owned by the same owner to be uncoupled for betting purposes. This is absolutely crazy and unless the industry looks at "exceptions" like this and the impact they can or could have the end result in this area is that we will be down to 2 race tracks in PEI that have casino funding helping out. In fact, we are not far off from that now. There have been races this year where there are 6 horse fields and 2 horses are owned by 1 owner and 2 will be owned by another. That leaves 4 different legitimate owners but betting on them all. This has resulted in many people refusing to bet and needs to be fixed if the industry really cares about survival. After all integrity and confidence is the one issue that the industry has hanging over its head from years gone by and current practices or "exceptions" like this are not ways to instill confidence. Worst part is with the HPI betting nationwide and beyond, it is crazy to assume bettors know these "exceptions" that are in place all across the country. A logical assumption is to believe, they believe, that the rules are the same everywhere. One of the "rules" that did get implemented nationwide though is admission to the track. If there was still a minor admission rate that money could be used as well for promotions such as the own a horse mentioned above or keep it in a pool for the year and with the bigger races offer part of it as an extra own a horse purse for that race.

Working together, there could be plenty of love and support for this industry nationwide and it could rebound everywhere instead of decline.

February 6, 2017 - 11:47 amPreliminary long term funding

Jim Brown SAID...

Preliminary long term funding consultation report released, yes I agree with equal rules across the board, spending little or no time on this issue is not the main importance. It seems when we receive funding that we fall back into old habits, and not focusing on the main priorities trying to show the government that the future of racing can be sustainable and we are focusing on these goals and marketing our sport to achieve them. Focusing in on our members, having a large meeting without OR to ask and answer questions on our future of sustainability and what each individual may contribute to allow our industry to grow forward. As a fan, I've come up with several marketing ideas to help our sport, as of today, none of them have been implemented in Canada. One idea was implemented in the U.S. at the Meadowlands race track, where a fan can be partnered with a horse as a potential owner for that night of racing and receive a percentage of the purse money. At the present time this is working out great for the Meadowlands and its attracting new fans. At the present time, I do not wish to become 2017 ambassador of the sport, I just want to enjoy racing as a fan.

I'llHaveAnother Ontario Needs Racing


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