By THE CENTAURIAN
Borrowdale Park is a very special place, steeped in history, glory, tragedy, noise, laughter, tears, heroes, villains and characters. It is the home of Mashonaland Turf Club.
For me it is one of the best racecourses in the world – and I have raced at quite a few – and it has been the crucible in which many lasting friendships have been forged. It is a very special place indeed.
In recent years the MTC has been dogged by a series of viability difficulties – as have many comparable clubs in Southern Africa. Successive Boards of Stewards – usually made up of the highly capable captains of commerce and industry – have done their very best to steady the ship with varying degrees of success.
That we are still racing today is testament to all those efforts because the Chairman and his Board of Stewards have survival as their core objective. Everything else might be important but can only be secondary to survival.
Central to the efforts of the Board has been the support and generosity of a phalanx of benefactors – they know who they are – but we are all very grateful to them and for the faith they have placed in the Board of Stewards. And it is important to stress that some of these benefactors are in fact serial benefactors. These individuals have provided the financial support needed to allow the Board sufficient time to restructure the club, and to forge a self-sufficient entity which will see the MTC continue racing in perpetuity.
Over the past three years some good things have been achieved – but at the same time, there are elements remaining which are far from satisfactory.
To survive and prosper, every business needs to balance the books, and this has been the core of Board strategy.
Whilst you can have an argument about a number of moves made, for me it is clear that the MTC simply has not had the resources to manage anything other than the club itself for some time. In this regard, for example, I mention the string of betting outlets across the country. The MTC should have had the ability to run this business unit, as gambling is technically a very profitable area of racing – as Moors World of Sport is demonstrating – but it didn’t. It was before my time as a Steward, but my guess is that we managed to lose money, lots of money in this function and thus it was right to ditch it and find a different angle back into the gambling potential. More news of that in a future column.
Whilst we all know that racing is rarely a profitable business, the idea that owners would accept lower purses came as a big surprise to all. But cost cutting had to include lower prize money. Having said that, I would contend that the economics of owning racehorses in Zimbabwe are still better than anywhere else in the world – scroll through my previous columns to find the maths which prove this.
I will list other cost cutting successes in future columns
As cost cutting efforts were being driven, so too were, and are, efforts to enhance revenue streams. Central to this work is the repurposing of the club’s fixed and intangible assets. As is evident, many retail outlets are now to be found around the stands, all paying rents into the club’s coffers. It is also evident that many advertising hoardings are displaying posters – and paying the club site fees. With our return to the screens of Tellytrack, such opportunities can only become much more valuable.
For me, the repurposing of our very considerable facilities holds much potential for the future viability of the club – again, more to follow in future columns.
So, there we are, a few of the good steps which have been taken in recent years.
But there are still areas which are less than satisfactory. For example, Admin and PR. I am not going to go into the detail of these things, suffice to say that I am strongly on the case and have the full support of my fellow Stewards in tackling these important secondary objectives.
With regard to Public Relations, I would say that I am doing my best to keep members informed either through this column or through specific WhatsApp groups. I would also say that I am available to hear any representations from interested parties on any subject – and to this end, I have held many meetings in the past months. Moreover, if anyone has a particular issue, they can write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org – but in addition to the issue you wish to raise, I would require to be given one or more solutions to that issue. I am not an “agony aunt” – nor do I want to hear of these issues on race day – such days are for fun only.
Overall, I can report that the efforts of the Board of Stewards are taking the club in the right direction and – as might be expected – whilst we may not always see eye to eye with each other, I do believe we have a common cause – survival, then prosperity – and that is all that matters.
Finally, I would ask all MTC members to make sure they bring their annual subs with them on Sunday 24th October – prompt payment of a modest $150 per annum will help us at many levels.
C John Smith, aka The Centaurian, posts regularly on this site… this time he writes as an MTC Steward.