In a recent interview with the Greyhound Star, the former Towcester CEO Kevin Ackerman put the track’s demise down to under-performing media rights agreements.
Can you please clarify what Mr Ackerman meant when he said that in greyhound racing “there is an expectation to provide a certain level of gross win margin return to the (off-course) bookmaking industry,” and that a betting organisation phoned up and told Towcester they were “unhappy with the margins.”
Are the margins which Mr Ackerman was referring to, on-course betting margins, where obviously an SP return of 135% will be more bookmaker-friendly than say 125%?
Or was Mr Ackerman referring to off-course gross profit margins on the Towcester greyhound racing product, with too many favourites winning for the off-course bookmaking industry’s liking?
It appears that Towcester is not unique in dreadful management and the nadir of customer care skills. The weekend at Paris for the Arc race meeting was a total disaster for racegoers from all over the world. Longchamp was closed for three years while they rebuilt and redesigned the stands at a cost of £141 million. The planners there appear to have been desultory regarding customer care and their essential facilities at race meetings. This is a typical sanguine attitude by those with little or no business expertise. Toilet facilities were an hour long queue, again ensuring you certainly missed a race.
Get this then, whilst Towcester failed via free entry, Lonchamp last weekend, on the contrary, had the temerity to charge visitors a cool £85 to get into the main stand. Exacerbating this fiasco there were hour long queues to get basic food and refreshments. Tote queues twenty times longer than those at Towcester on Derby night, meaning that you were certain to miss a race waiting to get a bet on. The argument against live bookmakers and just a French tote system died on Sunday, we win hands down here with visual live bookmaker betting.
The attendance was down to 32,000 from previous attendances of 52,000. Like Towcester, there was an army of staff, most of them doing nothing standing around chatting, or wrongly allocated to the most customer care effective areas. Friends of mine that went for the whole weekends meeting actually took sandwiches on Sunday for the Arc meeting, having been starved on Saturday via impossible endless queues for refreshments. Will these managers ever learn the paramount criteria for client/customer care? The customer is king in any business, get that wrong and into a Towcester/Lonchamp cul-de-sac you go and inevitably out of business.
Greyhound Racing still has so many important lessons to learn about carefully looking after racegoers and leaving an impression on them that they would like to return and even tell others about their good experience. Some of the prize money at some tracks and the shabby treatment of owners, they are actually just furnishing BAGS meeting for betting offices, is just derisory and insulting. At some tracks kennel staff don’t even get a meal voucher or discount on refreshments that other staff at the track receive, yet these kennel hands are caring for the main aspects of the racing product, the dogs, many kennel hands are on duty there all day, with hours of travelling to get back to feed their charges, a disgrace in my view. If we treated any of our business 550 staff in this dreadful way, staff morale would hit rock bottom and inevitably influence productivity and client care.
There is a need for Towcester, when it went well it was good, as the Derby meetings proved, although criticisms about the running track, it was safe with fewer injuries than other tracks that I won’t name here. Let’s hope that those that have expressed an interest to purchase Towcester, after important due diligence is completed, because it can be a viable business, that they employ those with a modicum of successful business expertise, unlike this Paris fiasco last weekend.
Monmore Green owner
James Gurney, now living in Tenerife, has still not been paid as the successful winning breeder of the Star Sports 2018 Greyhound Derby winner Dorotas Wildcat.
Just like to say what a great piece you have just done on my old friend John Gilburn John was always very good to myself and my wife Norma when he was at Belle Vue and when he moved over to Sheffield he always kept in touch. He will be missed by many and it’s a sad loss to the greyhound industry.