Banging on about the same thing when knowing it is futile in terms of change might be insanity but sometimes it remains necessary to simply keep shouting when racing can’t be bothered to wear even the flimsiest fig-leaf of concern for punters.
The latest example came during Turf Club Senior Steward Roddy Ryan’s Moyglare address when defending the system of amateur stewarding in Ireland.
“The Turf Club comprises its staff and some 150 members who come from all walks of Irish life and give of their time freely, and without any expenses, for the benefit of Irish racing,” he stated during the course of his speech.
“The concept of “amateur Stewards” is used occasionally as a term of derision by some commentators, but the fact is that amongst our members are found many of the most dedicated and knowledgeable people in Irish racing with ability and top quality experience in a wide range of areas,” Ryan added.
No one denies that amateur stewards perform these duties for no money. After all, that’s pretty much a dictionary definition of amateur. And no one denies they are dedicated, competent professionals in their own fields.
But no one can deny either that those fields can often border, and sometimes interweave, in social, and most pertinently of all, business, terms, with some of the most powerful bloodstock outfits in the game, outfits that either rightly or wrongly are widely believed to be judged by a different rule-book to others.
Such claims will be automatically dismissed by the powers that be, just as many racing observers are seemingly programmed to believe the worst of everyone and everything.
However when it comes to regulation, perception is vitally important and there is no doubt the perception of a golden circle at the top being allowed trample over the rules by a police agent comprised of people either too scared or too compromised to upset the status quo is deeply damaging to the credibility of stewarding in Ireland.
Only the hopelessly naïve will believe professional stewards alone will bring about a policing nirvana. But even addressing the issue might at least make a start in persuading a deeply sceptical betting public that their interests figure at least in some way on Irish racing’s agenda.
But the Moyglare content as a whole was a stark reminder of how little punters interests count in Ireland, and how that remains a fundamental flaw in the entire industry system.
Of course even the dream of a regime comparable to the one in Australia or Hong Kong is futile, given the financial clout of the off-course bookmakers and the years of legislative gymnastics that would probably get thrown out by competition law anyway.
However as Simon Coveney basked in an appreciative audience of racing professionals only too aware that behind the shaping, their future continues to be fundamentally dependant on schmoozing the relevant cabinet minister, it was all too plain how irrelevant the role of punters is.
Instead the long list of benefits in terms of employment, prestige, rural tourism etc the government gets in return for its cash were repeatedly pressed home, hardly a surprise given the self-interest involved.
But cosmetic talk of the redevelopment of the Curragh and racecourse facilities in general jarred considering the glaring structural flaw at the centre of a regulatory system that continues to leak credibility.
No one makes punters bet. There’s certainly no in-built propulsion among the betting-shop cannon fodder to pony up their cash on any kind of racing, especially the Irish stuff. But it is noticeable how there’s not even a pretence of addressing punter concerns anymore.
Irish racing is becoming ever increasingly a tent within which the professionals play for the spoils of a game funded by government. And the return is universally valued by the politicos holding the purse-strings, often with good reason.
But when it comes to Irish racing, punters know their place, and that place remains resolutely outside the tent.
Appearances count for more in something’s than in others. Frankie Dettori’s Celebrity Big Brother appearance for example is a thing of nothing in the overall scheme and it is ridiculous to place too much emphasis on the supposed “impact on racing” of the jockey taking part.
Yet there’s something regrettable about it. It screams of a desperate need for attention, or the preservation of a commercial identity that really ought to be far down the jockey’s list of priorities after his recent drug problems.
Maybe going on is Dettori’s call alone. If so, it is an illuminating one. If not, then his advisors fell down on the job.