Cutting costs and world class communication are at the core of the survival of South African Horseracing over the next ten years.
That is the message that was delivered by Thamsanqa Jantjie, the new head of communications at the Joint Operational Centre Keypoint, (JOCK) a venture established by local racing operators, following a Gambling Board section 44 ruling on 12 December last year.
JOCK will rule on matters of policy and act as an industry watchdog and ombudsman. It’s board will ultimately have the power to hire and fire across the spectrum, from the NHA to Phumelela.
The establishment of the body has been veiled in secrecy in an effort to maintain its independence.
“We are the racing industry’s Hawks. We are not here to make friends. We are here to make it work. Bad service in totes, Tellytrack, the Greyville track surface issues and bringing the jockeys into line, are just some of the items on the agenda. If they don’t want to ride, we will bring in replacement riders. The track surface is a simple issue. Nothing that a cut, a bit of water and 2:3:2 cannot solve. We want the July to stay at its original home for example, as tradition is important,” says the press release.
While addressing industry leaders and media at a well attended briefing at Sun City on Friday, racing’s newest most powerful man with effect from today, outlined his brief and his thoughts and ideas were received with great enthusiasm and some scepticism too.
“I am no fool, I am an observer and am able to interpret and analyse quickly. If I am at a loss for words I can switch to sign language and have solved many difficult problems in this way.”
When taxed from the floor to give a few specific examples of his strategy, he said that he would be axing race commentators in the first phase. “These guys work once or twice a week and they earn good money. If we are to bolster management and executive salaries as a priority, we need to get rid of certain people.”
“We live in an electronic age and with recognition chips in saddle cloths and big screens we will have a reliable indication where the horse is in the race, without some guy with a foreign accent guessing for us. They are dinosaurs in a modern world”, he said of one of the oldest professions in the racing world.
He also felt that telebetting was a huge source of untapped service potential and that the opportunity existed when the punter phoned his bet in, that he be cross sold other services like estate planning and financial planning.
“Never mind sports betting, this will be the next big thing to bolster coffers. Cash loans and a Debt counselling service also comes to mind. The sky is the limit. We have to pick this industry up out of the hole and touch the stars with innovation. And it doesn’t help showing off at Meydan and Royal Ascot when our own houses are in a mess. I want a moratorium on our international runners. They must come back home and race here. We can review it in five years.”
Jantjie shot to fame after being criticised for his controversial hand gestures while just feet away from US President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s memorial.
He was watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world interpreting the speeches of Obama and other world leaders.
His interpreting was widely derided after it was discovered that he had introduced words like “prawns” and “rocking horse” into some of the speeches.
He later claimed he had suffered a schizophrenic episode in which he had “seen angels and heard voices”.
The briefing closed for lunch with Jantjie giving a short sign language display of his plans for the next six months.
He was given a standing ovation .
The JOCK offices at Sandton Square will open today .