As the sun sets on 2020, the fallout from the impact of the hard lockdown in place during the Covid-19 pandemic looks likely to be around for some years yet.
Terms like the ‘new normal’ and a refreshing sense of humility have been in evidence in many industries, after a wake-up call that has shaken our national psyche.
The government, banks and many landlords came to the party, offering emergency support via TERS, payment holidays and rental relief.
The Sporting Post is aware that the beleaguered Phumelela, who recently offered staff 10% bonuses – richly deserved, no doubt in some cases- have adopted a ‘find the cash or move out’ policy with trainers who have fallen into arrears with their box rentals.
Phumelela’s powerful leverage is blocking the nominations from the trainers. So it’s a veritable gun to the head. No runners. No business. Show us the money.
While rental arrears are not unique to 2020, the hard-core approach to what must surely be a relatively minor third stream income source for the ailing racing operator, and a likely career death knell catalyst for the trainers involved, is disturbing.
Fair enough, Phumelela have bills to pay and angry shareholders to appease.
And business rescuer John Evans is a number cruncher, whose empathy and emotional involvement with non balance sheet fluffy items like ethos and passion for racing, must rank with the 20 length plus also rans we see every day.
But what about the moral issues? If they even really exist in the wood-panelled boardrooms anymore.
Phumelela have told us many times that the Grooms are not their responsibility. But closing businesses down means a loss of jobs – and more loss of credibility for them. But more importantly for the industry at large.
So what’s the answer in an environment where the horse, owner and punter populations have been decimated?
Evict the trainers? What happens to the horses that many of them own in partnerships – and mostly not by choice?
Do owners – and racing – really need another crisis? They have left the game in droves – even many of the big guys have cut back.
The big yards with numbers will always be strong enough to survive. This move to damn the debtors is all about the medium to smaller trainer.
We have seen the trainer numbers shrink to a point where a handful of yards dominate in most centres.
That makes racing boring and it lacks needle and competition.
So should we be asking Phumelela to drop the hard commercial approach in the interests of racing? Is that realistic? Why should Evans, or anybody else for that matter, at the Turffontein HO give a damn? It’s not their mandate.
Or is it a case of let the strong survive and an application of Jack London’s law of meat, from that great read, White Fang.
Life itself was meat. Life lived on life. There were the eaters and the eaten. The law was ‘Eat Or Be Eaten’.
Life’s not always a beach.
- We sent this editorial to Phumelela and the RA for comment hours prior to publishing. They failed to respond.