What do we really know about them and their work?
The Paulick Report did another story on the Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming. The piece was about the role of the stewards. From the article it seemed that the participating stewards’ panel role-played for the audience the activity likely found in the stewards box on any given race day. I am sure the presentation was interesting, but to what audience. Experience in attending a couple of these symposia highlights the audiences. Most are industry professionals who should know what goes on in the stewards box. The preferred audience for such a presentation should a broader fan base to make a difference.
The fan reaction to the stewards’ decision about the interference inquiry in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic, proves this point. Most fans have very little knowledge of the activities of racing stewards, their training or the rules they are required to follow. The main concern for the fan is “did they win or lose their bet, based on the decision.” Understandable, but not acceptable.
Racetrack fan education programs, to the degree they exist, should put this topic at the top of their curriculum list. Spending hours giving opinions on who is going to win a race or what a Pick 6 ticket should look like is irrelevant, if 95% of the fans in attendance do not understand the basic elements of our sport. If the industry believes, as it often says, that the sport has a trust or credibility issue, here is a good place to start.
The New York Gaming Commission in the spring of this year asked staff and the New York state racing Fan Advisory Council to examine ways to improve steward transparency. The work has begun and fans have be involved in the effort. Suggestions include posting a comprehensive report of all stewards’ actions in a previous day’s races daily on their website. Fans have, even, recommended that a NFL model be considered whereby after an inquiry or objection, the stewards appear on the infield screen and track televisions to explain their ruling process and decision.
In a recent college football game, a defensive end made helmet-to-helmet contact with a quarterback. The ruling was to eject the defensive end from the game. Simultaneous with that ruling the television showed a split screen which included the exact text from the NCAA rule book. Viewers and fans could disagree with the decision on the field, but they could not quarrel with the rule used to make it.
Perhaps it is time to begin discussing the topics at the University of Arizona program with fans, not industry insiders — that is if we want to save the integrity of our sport.