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Does Anybody Know What The Customer Wants?

SA racing introduced Racing It's A Rush

The hype and champagne success of the Vodacom Durban July last Saturday had a dark pall cast over it by Phumelela’s sobering 911 call issued via a stock exchange announcement on Friday.

The frightening impact of the horseracing gods having maxed their banking facilities and in such obvious disarray, with short-term commitments under pressure and even stake cheques potentially not being paid in the near future, are too damaging to even consider for the wider industry.

It goes to the very core of stakeholder confidence at all levels.

We have heard of market corrections and fundamental change – but this car crash in slow motion, as an SP poster put it, is picking up momentum with great haste.

But there are problems further afield, too – the basic difference in Hong Kong, in an admittedly different world, being that they seem to talk from a unified front and are actually innovating – not just talking or bickering.

They even know how many customers they have and are actually listening to them.

Stop for a moment – answer the question – who actually runs South African horseracing?

The South China Morning Post reports that the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s betting turnover on racing plunged HK$1.6 billion from the start of March until the end of June, virtually falling off a cliff after more than a decade of enormous growth.

Racing turnover more than doubled from 2005-06 (HK$60 billion) to 2017-18 (HK$124 billion), so the sudden dip has many espousing theories about what has gone wrong.

Turnover is the lifeblood of racing – it single-handedly supports the industry, enabling the Jockey Club to be the highest taxpayer in Hong Kong while also being a major charity donor. Without it, everyone suffers. As will happen here in SA – with many jobs at stake in a country with already record unemployment levels.

In 1998-99 the Hong Kong Jockey Club had two million customers in what many remember as “the good old days” but it became complacent and that number more than halved to 900 000 in 2005-06.

Knowing it needed to reinvent itself, HKJC officials embarked on a revitalisation project from the start of the 2006-07 season, spending somewhere between HK$7-8 billion in up­grading facilities, technology, racing and the entire customer experience.

While the fundamentals may differ, what did we do here? Introduce Racing It’s A Rush?

The Hong Kong Jockey Club also introduced rebates to encourage bigger punters to spurn other markets, dangling a return of 10 per cent for losing bets of HK$10,000 or more.

“It is probably a long story to explain what has happened,” Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges told the South China Morning Post.

“It is complex – from competition, from product, from customer segments, the com­mingling, the illegal market – it has to be a holistic discussion. You need turnover for the long-term sustainability of the sport. We knew when we did our budget [for this season] that there would likely be a correction. [We were facing some] difficult challenges.”

Attracting more quality jockeys and trainers is also on the agenda.

And race programming is another aspect to receive attention – with the meeting on June 8 in particular giving Engelbrecht-Bresges nightmares after a HK$191 million drop (12.7 per cent) decline on the corresponding card.

13 time Hong Kong champion jockey, Doug Whyte

There were too many dominant favourites, it was not competitive and with nothing better than a Class Three race on the programme, it did not drive interest.

“It comes down to a product and excitement issue. I think one of the key things with Hong Kong racing is the close finishes and the competitiveness of the racing. It’s not just about revenue, it’s about excitement,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

“We will look and see if we change the Class system. A lot of people have databases. When we changed to flexible ratings bands, the reaction from our customers was not very good. They were complaining because they have a certain logic – how they look at horses in which class. So if you do something like this, you have to be really sure that the customers like it.”

The Hong Kong issue is not unique. Racing is under pressure in the UK and France. Can we learn from the experience? Has anybody here ever asked our customers what they liked?

Excerpts from www.scmp.com

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8 comments on “Does Anybody Know What The Customer Wants?

  1. Rod Mattheyse says:

    Yep so let’s raise ratings universally – just because the paid people dropped them too quickly!

  2. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    The status quo must not be touched at all costs. This is the exact question that should be asked of the ANC and how they run SA. It has never been about the customer….Phumelela is SA racing’s ANC. A socialist set up to use the masses to keep the elite in control…..hand outs and give aways to keep the masses distracted. Nero fiddles while Rome burns, the games….There is a lot of people in the Ivory towers who have got very rich very quickly and that includes the NHRA and the RA with there piecemeal attempt to engage, it was never about that. Every debate held in your paper or the industry concerning anything ( exotics, stipes, handicapping ownerships, breeding, export, tote, training has been a complete farce, there was never any intention to allow the “masses” to have any say….The status quo must not be disturbed ( look around the world and the ANC ) …..if I am wrong then prove otherwise. The template is the same, someone said a while back that after Jooste SA racing jumped out of the frying pan into the fire…..they got that right and people saw it and said something….yeah right. It was like making a scrap metal dealer the captain of the Titannic, there was only one result………double the stakes ( I wish ) increase the exotic choice by lots and stop the bloody carry overs, give it back to the punter. The 22 mil July is a false narrative and will hurt “normal” racing……The hunger games is not what its about, its about every day racing. I see today all the favs come in with big fields…..incredible 1% of nothing is nothing ( it has to be fields with the ridiculous results we get nowadays ). I expect the hot call of the day at Scottsville to run 4th or less after 3 weak favs……always some thing to make us look fools. its lottery,

  3. Leon Smuts says:

    As this article highlights it is turnover that drives the game, always has, always will be. When in there great wisdom operators decided to get this gain only from extracting every drop from existing clients and do nothing too build new capacity, the writing was always going to be on the wall as we are witnessing now. For how long have many a writer been critical about the lack of effort to get new customers and during this time did anyone actually listen, or actually care or actually realise that the tightening noose was about to snap shut. There is nothing more damning and frustrating than complacency born out of arrogance and greed. When decision makers told me a few years ago that new products and technology driven offerings were not needed and that win and place bets are the easiest products to get new people interested, i knew that things would get a lot worse before they got better. Ancient thinking in key hands are a recipe for disaster and without shaming them now in name these gentleman know who they are. The quicker racing gets a new dispensation the better for the industry. Now is not the time to say i told you so but it really hurts to think that they failed to see this coming or ignored the clear evidence of impending disaster.

  4. Brian says:

    You can have al the technology you can think of. You can have millions of bet types that say you can win millions.

    It still remains a personality business and right there you have none. None of anyone who runs this business has a personality that makes me say, “I wanna go racing!”

    The NHA have an obsession of fining jockey’s for having a personality. I’m surprised the work rider today didn’t’ cop a fine for being a great guy.

    They are no longer allowed a celebratory gesture so that’s as exciting as a prostrate examination. A top jockey tells the punter to stick it when it comes to an interview so I couldn’t give a damn about him or where he races or if he races.

    The old guard loved, REPAET, LOVED, horse racing so it worked it was fun. It was great.

    Who are these guy?

    Get ex-jockeys in ,get trainers in get some life and NHA, you’re not doing anyone any favours.

  5. Ralph Fell. says:

    In a smokey boardroom a cosmetic change was effected to further stiff the punter. ‘We’ll cut Tellytrack to the bone, and while we’re at it move Winning Ways to 22H00 on a freezing Monday night’ The current presentation belongs on the cartoon channel. An email to Tellytrack ‘management’ requesting justification of the above elicited zero response. Two years ago when ‘It’s a Rush’ was stationary I sent Rob Scott a blueprint of what I felt was a cost effective and viable solution to attract younger potential punters to the racecourse. This refrain had become a virtual obsession. No, I was not afforded the courtesy of a reply. Sadly, the blueprint met the shredder. The reality is that PGL was well and truly ‘captured.’ Their definition of a punter: A pain in the butt to be avoided at all cost.

  6. Prasheen Harrimohan says:

    Racing is f***** take for example the favourite in parx USA was number 4 but on tt screens it showed number 3 cos they have 1 and 1a in USA how confusing is that for the less literate punter. They have a bunch of clowns running tt and it will always remain like Dat. It will never change I’m sure they can sort out the issue and make life much simpler for the punters. I’m also still waiting for a response from the editor as to y tt has no presenters most of the time. Disgusting and embarrassing yet our dstv subscriptions are over 900 a month

    1. Editor says:

      We pass on all queries on this platform to the relevant entities

  7. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    Thats funny ! is the circus in town ?

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