Racing Australia chair hopes body can play peacemaker between states

New Racing Australia chairperson Greg Nichols has called for a renewed spirit of cooperation between Victoria and New South Wales and for the warring neighbours to act as advocates for second-tier states as they feel the squeeze of prizemoney pressure.

Greg Nichols has called for a renewed spirit of cooperation between Victoria and New South Wales.Credit:Simon Schluter

The fierce competition between Racing Victoria and Racing NSW has seen prizemoney spiral to more than $500 million dollars per year in the two states and a host of new initiatives like the $14 million Everest in Sydney and $5 million All-Star Mile in Melbourne.

Yet the interstate rivalry has also resulted in disruptive feature race scheduling, most notably Sydney's latest "innovation" – the $7.5 million Golden Eagle – set to run for the first time on Victoria Derby day this year.

The national body may lack true authoritative bite, given racing's funding is bound by state legislation, but Nichols says Racing Australia can still act as a peacemaker between the biggest states and encourage advocacy for embattled jurisdictions like South Australia and Queensland.

"I don't think there has been as active a dialogue between the two states as there should have been," Nichols said, while also bringing into question the "sustainability" of the prizemoney increases and the pressure they create on a national scale.

Nichols, a current Racing Victoria director and chairman of industry-owned broadcaster Racing.com, is taking over as RA chair from Frances Nelson, who has cited a need to focus on the issues facing her home state of South Australia.

The South Australian government has chosen not to pass on revenue gained from the Point Of Consumption tax, resulting in severe cuts to prizemoney and an exodus of the state's top participants.

"There is a sustainability angle to it, Queensland has its issues too," Nichols said. "There are some eminent people involved on both boards (Victoria and NSW) and you would think there would be a pitch towards being more consultative.

"It's a powerful motivation to have the most successful racing jurisdiction in Australia, and New South Wales and Victoria are both pushing towards that goal. It is healthy to have that degree of competition, but we have to recognise that all of the other states need to be strong in their own right as well.

"I see both the states taking a more prominent role in assisting the smaller states because they just don't have the resources to do it themselves. There are plenty of things Racing Australia can do in terms of advocacy. The people on the ground in those states have the most influence but we should be actively supporting them."

Calling for greater cooperation between Racing Victoria and Racing NSW is nothing new but the question is how Racing Australia, which compiles and oversees the Australian rules of racing but is primarily an administrative body servicing the states with central services like a studbook, race fields and record keeping, can make practical impact.

"There's a subtle role we can play and I genuinely believe we can make a difference," Nichols said. "We can fulfil a lot of roles behind the scenes to bring about good outcomes, but good outcomes can only be achieved if there is good will on both sides."

In the midst of the prizemoney hikes Nichols also suggested the concerns of two of racing's most forgotten participants – punters and the horses – could not be neglected.

"Prizemoney is a very important element It's an important element but it's not the sole determinant in customer engagement," he said.

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