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Unintended Consequences

I had a scan of yesterday's news that was filtering social media channels about the Saudi 'government' allowing women to drive. It was expected, no doubt, by those who passed the new law that people would think more positively about that country. In terms of public relations, it was supposed to be a good thing. But, things like this don't do exactly what they're supposed to.

When you highlight something like this, it becomes news. And many consumers of the news learn something they didn't know about a topic before; in this case, the fact that women could not drive in a modern, rich country. The policy was supposed to improve outsiders thoughts towards the regime, but it can do the opposite. I bet if you took a poll today about freedom in Saudi Arabia, it would score worse than it did last week.

This phenomenon, highlighted by marketers and economists like Peters and Berger, was also seen with the War on Drugs. Upon the policy's inception, drug use actually grew, because the government was running a massive ad campaign highlighting different kinds of drugs - their effects, where they're sold, and how they're used. It was an infomercial, because a great many people watching had not even heard of half of them.

For horse racing, I think something can be learned.

Current horse racing policy, say with banning more and more allowed drugs, should not be trumpeted, but slowly and slowly improved from within.  The sport does not need headlines "Race Day Drugs Banned", because the general public's reaction won't be, "great, they're not giving horses drugs before they race", it will be "they were allowed to give drugs to racehorses before a race? What's wrong with these people?"

It's not dissimilar, in my view, with "wastage", or the fact that so, so many horses born and sold as yearlings this month won't make it far in life.  The general public's expectation is that they do make it far in life. By enacting policy that helps this problem, and trumpeting it to the world, the public won't think more of you, but less.

In a world of 140 280 characters,  there's plenty of room for good policy. But, how a business or industry manages the minefield is most important. For horse racing, whip rules, drug issues and wastage are all very important things to work on to bring horse racing more in line with today's urbanized world. But creating and forwarding a policy in the shadows that meets the public's expectations is, in my view, the best way to go.

Have a nice Wednesday everyone.


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