12th July 2016
Touché Mr. Carr. Yesterday, at the Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival Press Day, I told David Carr that the front page of the Racing Post usually looks like a bookmaker’s advert and today he has managed to persuade them to put me on it under the controversial heading ‘Johnston’s message for ITV: drop all betting talk’. What’s more, apart from a small banner advert for Coral, the front page has no mention of betting at all and headlines draw attention to six interesting articles inside. Have I been doing the Racing Post an injustice? Judged on today’s content, I have.
When you have a press day like that and you are fielding questions from a dozen journalists on topics ranging from Brexit to the price of eggs, it is difficult to cover every topic in detail and the opportunities to be misquoted are numerous. David Carr’s coverage of what I said was, however, very fair although he did, perhaps, put too much emphasis on my plea for the media to give less coverage to betting and nowhere near enough on my assertion that they should concentrate on promoting understanding of, and interest in, the sport. If people have an opinion they are much more likely to bet as is evident from sports like football.
The issue drew comment from the editor, Bruce Millington, and he is of course right to say that ‘betting is far more fundamental to racing’s funding model than it is to other sports’. But I am not for a moment suggesting that people should not be allowed to bet and his suggestion that we should look to showjumping for an indication of how racing might be without betting is a ridiculous one. Far more important to look to greyhound racing for what can happen to a sport that becomes nothing more than a betting medium and is reduced to a game of numbers and colours. Let’s not allow racing to go any further down that path.