As you may be aware, there have been calls for a racing czar to be appointed for harness racing. Here is an unsigned piece in opposition to the concept of a czar. It is worth a read.
In some ways I agree with the author, in some ways I disagree. I certainly do not believe in the concept of an all powerful czar who singlehandedly is the arbiter of all issues which arise, but to be honest, I don't think (I hope so) there is anyone who really feels there should be one all-mighty person who decides all issues on their own without input. In the NFL, a common example cited as having a czar, does the commissioner decide everything on his own? Of course, not; there are committees which establish rules, negotiate marketing agreements, television rights, and other items; he merely is the person who enforces the wishes of the league. True, the commissioner may make hold disciplinary hearings and make decisions, but even these rulings are made based on rules set in contract negotiations between the league and players.
Despite what this particular author may think, there is too much racing going on when looking at it from a national perspective. Any economics student in college can tell you this. Consolidation is unavoidable. It can be controlled and managed to minimize the consolidation, or we can wait for an inevitable implosion.
There is an article in the May issue of Hoof Beats talking about the success of harness racing in Europe. Part of the success in Europe is due to the European view that gambling is a legitimate activity versus the American attitude, but a good part of their success is due to a single entity controlling racing in these individual countries versus the hodge-podge approach we have in North America.
Make no mistake, racing can not only think of cutting race dates; it must also work furiously at developing new markets and reinvigorating market share. While these individual groups should be applauded for working to market racing, we would have greater success if these efforts were coordinated within a centralized organization; an organization where tracks, breeders, and horsemen are dedicated on working for a common good instead of being concerned with protecting their own turf. If these groups worry solely about their own turf, there will not be a turf left to protect. All parties must agree if a decision is made based on the input of these various committees’ rules and guidelines, they can't just take the ball and go home if they disagree.
Whether the USTA remains a breed registry or becomes our ‘league’ remains to be decided. However, a big part of our problem is the number of directors involved in making changes. You won’t find one successful company in North America where there are more than fifty directors on their board. Why do we insist on having these many members? It is a lean and limber organization which succeeds. One weighted down with too much bureaucracy is destined to bog down. Should the USTA turn out to be the centralized authority, it is necessary to reduce the number of directors.
The Record had a story in today's paper describing life in the backstretch at the Meadowlands. Admittedly, it is a superficial story, but it is worth a quick perusal. Racing usually doesn't any stories in the newspapers anymore so we need to be supportive when they do show up.