Jenny - Clean

AS the new-look Winter Racing Carnival is launched at the Gold Coast on Saturday – with its richest ever prizemoney and a $2 million Stradbroke that will reward mediocrity being run at Doomben – a ‘secret’ battle of Group 1 proportions is brewing behind the scenes at Racing Queensland.

The ‘blame game’ has intensified within the Deagon Bunker – with some key figures fighting for their very survival – as the countdown begins to the recommendations of the MacSporran Inquiry into ‘live baiting’ in the greyhound industry being delivered to Racing Minister Bill Byrne.

Some key staff are so concerned at what they call ‘deteriorating morale at the way the Kevin Dixon-led Board is running the show’ that they want the Government to intervene and take some action to restore confidence before RQ deteriorates into an internal battlefield.

The only thing that could save the administration in Queensland from an absolute embarrassment when the national racing spotlight focuses on the carnival is a ‘friendly media’ where most of the mainstream writers and broadcasters are viewed by many industry stakeholders and followers as too close to their ‘mates’ at the top.

Concerned by the deteriorating situation within the Deagon Bunker, ‘insiders’ have dispatched a desperate plea for the Government to take some urgent action. This website has been contacted by telephone and email with an SOS to relay their feelings to the Racing Minister.

They are not prepared to make personal contact fearing reprisals if they are identified when RQ is asked to address their complaints. Here is an example of one of the emails that we received from ‘a spy in the Deagon bunker’ who we know to be a key staff member.

It reads:

‘The racing industry, the racing public, the Commission of Inquiry and the Government or Racing Minister need to be made aware of the circumstances concerning the return to duties of Integrity Chief Wade Birch.

The RQ Media Release paints a far different picture to what is emerging behind the scenes at Deagon. For starters many people got the impression that the Commission of Inquiry had orchestrated the return to work of Mr Birch.

That is certainly not the case. He was stood down by the All Codes Board and returned to duty by the same Board. But what has been kept secret is that Mr Birch returned to duties on his terms or what some call a deal struck with All Codes Board chairman Kevin Dixon, his greatest supporter and apparently rubber-stamped on the recommendation of the Chairman by the Board over which he has majority control.

Not everyone is delighted by Mr Birch’s return or the terms and conditions which he has apparently set down which has again raised questions internally and externally by those in the know about his closeness to the Chairman.

Our understanding and that of those close to the action at the Bunker is that Mr Birch only returned on the condition that he worked ONLY TWO DAYS a week in the office at Deagon and the other THREE DAYS at the Sunshine Coast where he lives.

The story doing the rounds within the bowels of RQ is that Mr Birch cannot entertain a working relationship (has confidentially told some the breakdown is irreparable) with the CEO Mr Darren Condon and that this has been accepted by Mr Dixon (and the Board).

This has led to some extremely serious questions being asked. It is well known within RQ that there was a disagreement between Wade Birch and Darren Condon over the closeness of the Head of Integrity to the All Codes Board Chairman. The time they were spending together within the office (locked away in private discussions) was not going unnoticed by staff. Mr Condon is said to have told Mr Birch he believed it was not a good look. Thus we have the current result although some are suggesting that Mr Birch is saying he doesn’t have full confidence in the Board.

Whatever the situation, it is obvious there is a lack of confidence between the Board and some key staff who cannot work together. There are stories doing the rounds in here (not idle gossip) that Mr Condon is being left out of the loop and that even some of the decisions which would normally be procedural for any CEO have to go to the Board which means the wheel of motion for the industry are spinning and the joint is going nowhere. In other words he is being stripped of his powers.

This, too, isn’t a good look when some believe Mr Condon is shaping as the ‘scapegoat for some’ for the lack of response to complaints from Animal Liberation Queensland concerning the ‘live baiting’ saga. I can tell you the standing joke in the office these days is: QUESTION: Who do we blame if the sun doesn’t come up tomorrow? ANSWER: Darren Condon!

Staff morale has been at an all-time low for some time and just continues to deteriorate. I can assure you tjat the only one who has done anything to address this issue has been Darren Condon – not Kevin Dixon (in our opinion he’s too busy looking after his supporters), not individual members of the Board, certainly not Wade Birch (most think he’s too busy worrying about his own survival) – but singularly Darren Condon.

The sooner the outcome of this Inquiry is known the better. Most concede there is little hope of the merger of the three codes surviving. The dogs are so much on the outer it isn’t funny. Those that count politically have been never happy with the share that harness racing got (still too much many believe) under the new TAB deal. And the gallops – well all they want to do is run their own show and offload the other pair.

As for the staff who have to deal with an inquisitive racing public and stakeholder groups on a daily basis, well it isn’t fun working here. Our call is for some action to be taken now to resurrect some respectability and confidence in RQ.

The answer to that of course isn’t to hide behind the ‘spin doctored’ publicity (positive from the mainstream media, especially The Courier-Mail Turf Editor Nathan Exelby) that the winter carnival will attract. Instead those that count should be addressing and highlighting the more disturbing aspects of racing administration in Queensland and the lack of confidence there is in Kevin Dixon and his cronies.

They cannot be allowed to survive and should be stood down now. For the Racing Minister to wait for the outcome of the Inquiry and then take action might sound politically correct but it seems like an eternity for those of us at the coalface.

Would you please ensure that this gets to the appropriate authorities? We would also ask Phil Purser but don’t want to be put he or his website justracing under any more pressure as we understand he is being threatened with having his media accreditation withdrawn because he has dared to write something negative or more to the point objective.’

THE above email just about sums up the concerns of those who have called on letsgohorseracing for help which we will attempt to ensure finds the eyes and ears of the right people.

There is one important aspect of the return to work of Wade Birch that does need to be highlighted. We are assured that despite reports to the contrary doing the rounds in the industry it had nothing to do with the Integrity Commissioner Jim O’Sullivan whose role is far less significant these days than the title of ‘007 BOND’ bestowed on him by the former ‘joke’ Racing Minister ‘furlong in front’ Steve Dickson.

Remember him?

Hopefully in a few months time the industry can also say: Kevin who?   

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