Punters Don't Rule - OK!!


Sitting in my fridge is a packet of sausages from an upmarket supermarket where, on the pack, it obligingly tells me the very farm where the pigs were raised. It even has a photograph of the jolly, smiling farmer on the back of the pack.

Adding to the farmers coffers by buying his produce gives me the right to tell him how to run his farm, does it not?

Well of course it doesn’t, purchasing his product as a consumer does nothing of the sort, nor should it.

If I don’t like the way he runs his farm I am perfectly at liberty, as a consumer, to boycott his products and if sufficient consumers do so then he may be persuaded to change his methods and that is how it should be.

Turning now to the now tedious whip debate or, as it has been more appropriately called, the whip mass debate, one of the most frequent mantras has been why were punters not consulted? Indeed it seems to be a familiar mantra almost every time any change is made in racing.

My question is, why the hell should punters be consulted?

Punters are only indirect consumers of the racing product either via bookmakers or betting exchanges.

I see no difference in the relationship between the farmer breeding pigs for consumption by an end consumer, in this case the supermarket shopper, and racing providing a product, the race, for use by an end consumer, the punter.

If the purchaser of the sausages has no right to tell the farmer how to run his farm, why should the punter have the right to tell racing how to run the sport?

The punters relationship is with their bookmaker or exchange “opponent” not with racing.

Indeed there is probably a greater case for the pig consumer to have a say as the pig is being raised exclusively for the said pig consumer.

Whereas racing is staged primarily for the owners and trainers, with the punting being an adjunct, so punters are only a secondary player.

Of course the punters will respond “it is our money that is used to finance the sport” that may be correct but only up to a point. Although, strictly speaking, it is the bookmakers money which directly goes into funding the sport, albeit by a totally anachronistic Levy scheme.

It is no different to the way Waitrose pay the pig supplier for my sausages.

Arguably the supermarket is in a direct position to influence how the farmer does his job although only to a limited extent in that the farmer, if he wishes, can still tell the supermarket to get lost.

Similarly the bookmakers, for good or bad, are in a position to influence the industry but, similarly, racing would equally be within their rights to tell them to get lost.

The only way punters could have an indirect influence is by boycotting the product.

The trouble is, of course, it would never happen – well not to the extent it would have a significant impact.

In truth your average betting shop punter couldn’t care less about how the sport is run, if racing is there, they will bet on it.

Most bet for greed, looking for the elusive big win. They will bet on anything they think will give them the chance to win and even if they do fluke a big win, as sure as night follows day, they will lose it all again as greed prevails over common sense.

You only have to look at the increasing popularity of the virtual racing in the betting shops, or the number of people who buy lottery tickets.

Most punters are opportunists, very few make even a small profit from punting, even fewer actually make a living from punting. Most punters are losers.

Do we really want losers influencing how the sport is run?

Look at the proliferation of bookmaker supported all-weather racing, which is nothing more than the horse racing version of a BAGS greyhound meeting. 

Why is it bookmakers support this low grade fare?

Because it is racing in its purest form?

Of course not, it is because it is the type of product the mug punters, who provide most of their profits, lap up and it boosts the bookmakers profits. Who can blame them for encouraging it?

What the racing “purists” seem to be unable to recognise is your average betting shop punter could not care less if the whip rules are changed or unchanged.  If the whip was banned or there were no restrictions. They would still bet to more or less the same levels as before.

There are those who argue racing would not survive without the punter.

I would qualify that by saying racing would not survive in its current form without the punter, but is that actually a bad thing?

It needs to be remembered the Levy is only 50 years old and racing existed long before it was supported by a Levy. It would still exist, even if punters money were to dry up.

It would exist in a leaner, arguably, purer form. There would be much less racing at the lower grade but would that be a bad thing?

I love racing for the sport, seeing horses compete to find out who is the best horse.

Personally I couldn’t care less if betting was allowed on it or not. Yes I do have a bet but I don’t need to have a bet to appreciate a good race or a good athlete.  If betting were banned tomorrow I would still watch racing, I would still go racing.

To those who say without betting there would be no racing, I would say you are wrong.

There will still be the best racing, that will still attract sponsorship. What is wrong with staging the top races as Stakes races.  

There would still be a breeding industry but it would concentrate on the high-end thoroughbred and not the low grade, mass breeding, we have now.

Yes there would be job losses but, hey, welcome to the real world. Why should racing be exempt from real world financial reality?

For me it would be a much better sport in a leaner form.

By all means criticise those who are supposed to run the sport, they deserve it but do so from a position of being a lover of the sport, don’t use punting as a justification.

In the same way buying a pack of sausages confers no rights on telling the farmer how to run his farm, being a punter does not incur any rights on saying how the sport should be run.    

So I have no sympathy, no time, for the punter who thinks he has some God given right, by virtue of being a punter, to tell the sports administrators how to run the sport.


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