To go public or not to go public – Turf Talk: 3 March 2019
MOST business dealings are conducted behind closed doors. Confidentiality is the watchword. “Leaks” can cause untold damage to the strategic goal. In some fields, there is more pressure to break confidentiality than in others.
Last night, my football team since I could read, West Bromwich Albion, dismissed the manager and his assistants – rightly in my opinion because that superb club servant had become Peter Principled. I hope he gets a whopping payoff and will remain the club’s friend.
There is now a frenzy of journalistic speculation and fabrication feeding the fans’ need to “know” the who, how and when of the successor. I myself pop every couple of hours onto an on-line clipping service and have a news feed to show me 50% sense and 50% nonsense. Not much confidentiality there because of the nature of fandom, and of course it is not life or death.
In contrast, the War Cabinet kept the door firmly shut – and the media knew of the unimaginable consequences of leaks.
Keeping these extremes in mind, let us move to two projects involving the European Union of 28, soon 27, countries. One with the UK and the other, South Africa.
This column commented in passing the other day that Brexit negotiators could learn a thing or two from SAEHP.
The amateurish and weak manner in which the UK’s “leaders” have conducted the Brexit negotiations is surely the most pathetic display of (non) statesmanship since Suez.
Having groaned in 1992 when the Treaty of Maastricht turned what is now the EU into something different to the original intention, many of us groaned again when seeing a negotiating team of politicians, some ambivalent at best, and civil servants heading to Brussels to handle one of the biggest business deals in the country’s modern history.
It took 11 years for the EU and Canada to negotiate a trade deal. Canada’s domestic politics is split down West–East and French–Anglo lines. The EU’s involves the interests of 28 member states, one of Belgium’s two population groups providing the sticking point.
Then suddenly a signing ceremony! EU last-minute-itis. There is still no EU-India trade deal (because of Italian textile interests I am told), yet without one, India and the UK are in the top few investors in each other’s large economies. Let’s hope that with regard to EU/AH/SA what we have now not something potentially endless like the Brexit backstop mechanism, but EU last-minute-itis.
On 4th February, James Goodman interviewed Adrian Todd of SAEHP on Winning Ways. I felt that the interview itself was a major event. Much of what Adrian said resonated – especially his statement that in 2011– 2018 it was technically impossible for the EU restrictions to be lifted. That may thus criticise the credibility of previous SA representation (proving the EU right in context) , but the point is “Now all is in order”.
SAEHP had previously played its cards close to its chest. More” War Cabinet” than “Football Club”. As a result, some SA stakeholders were frustrated by the lack of feedback and others were passively unaware of prospects and assumed “it isn’t going to happen”. Yet much work was actually being done amongst SAEHP/ EU/Government, without publicly second guessing each other.
Unlike the Brexit negotiators, the SA team knows what it is doing, particularly but not exclusively through Adrian’s input in cooperating with government. Add to that the scientific evidence, so superbly presented by Prof. Ian Sanne, Drs Beverley Parker and John Grewar at ITBF Table Bay January 2017 and S.S. South Africa is surely shipshape and Bristol fashion when it comes to AHS, with yet more progress to follow.
Some of those people in Europe whom I used to lobby to “please at least listen” still – as recently as this – thought that EU approval soon was still too optimistic.
Having shown the interview to two, they are more open minded now. But they are always guarded – not because of the SA position per se but the umpteen other considerations affecting EU thinking. Politics not science.
The EU is supposed to take care of the interests of 27- 28 countries. Its two Presidents are an ex Prime Minister of Luxembourg, population 600,000 and home of the European Court of Justice which has scuppered UK racing issues by overturning English High Court rulings in the past, and an ex Prime Minister of Poland. Not very horsey.
Given the enormous deference to Ireland shown by the EU in the Brexit negotiations thus supporting an obstacle that neither side ever thought would be a problem in practice (the NI border), one wonders about EU-ear bending by its members – plus perhaps Turkey that has been trying to join the EU for 30 years and has its own equine disease issues with regard to re-export to the EU.
A political / governmental push from South Africa is no doubt part of the plan, so I guessed – incorrectly – that a further period of silence would follow while more work was done to complete the process as far as possible before any procedural visit.
But a couple of days ago, another public push took place, no doubt strategic because Mike de Kock is part of SAEHP. On Winning Ways, and published in the Sporting Post, he expressed frustration at the EU’s audit delay under the headline comment that the EU could destroy the SA industry.
When Mike de Kock speaks, plenty of people listen – including overseas because that is the only South African name that most racing and breeding people know. As recently as February Sales, friends asked me – just back from CPYS – how the industrial unrest was doing. They had more or less no news of South Africa since Mike de Kock’s published comments mid last year and nothing much for months beforehand other than the Mayfair collapse as it impacted on Coolmore partnerships.
Now, the Sporting Post reports that the Mauritius route will no longer be used by its most successful user, another momentous development. The implications are significant, yet there are only three comments on the article – contrasting with hundreds on the West Brom management decision – which dwell more on SA being insulted by EU behaviour.
There is much sympathy for SA’s treatment by the EU on this matter, but now is not the time to play the victim.
Because there is no enlightened flow of SA information into the bloodstock world at large, nobody has a clue about imminent collapse and to highlight it would deter those at ordinary levels who invest now, and may do so anyway again.
Nevertheless perhaps such a high profile prediction of doom might stir the SA government further, if not the EU, and encourage an effective political push towards achieving a thoroughly deserved goal. – tt.