Do you know what this is?
Yes Daddy, it’s a cat, it goes meowwwww
Very good. What is this?
It’s a pig, it goes oink oink!
And this one?
That’s a greyhound trainer Daddy, it goes: “Fuckingamesgone. . . thatfundinsallbent. . . . promotersarerippinusoff.
I have spent virtually all my life surrounded by greyhound trainers. A significant percentage of my friends train greyhounds. As a group, I have been professionally supporting and defending them for over three decades.
But as a profession, they live in ‘someone is out to nick my half empty glass, which is probably leaking’ mindset. . .
For a start – I do not accept that the game’s gone; it is evolving as was inevitable and necessary.
(However, listening to some of my Facebook friends, I do accept that the doom and gloom has a lot to do with geography. If you live in Wales, the West Country or big sections of Northern England and Scotland, your greyhound participation options are very limited.)
The reality is – greyhound racing needed to shrink to reflect economic reality. Just as owners would rather stay at home midweek and watch their dogs on the TV, the general public also choose to stay at home with their digital TV and internet.
I see no evidence of that reversing or even slowing. Greyhound racing will never return to the game we once knew.
Crowds of 20,000 are gone forever. In fact, with the exception of a Derby Final, attendances above 2,000 will be rare. But that’s not just greyhound racing, but a whole range of activities who can no longer draw a big audience – particularly midweek.
We are down to 22 tracks and realistically, I would expect to lose at least three or four more in the next three/four years. It isn’t a cunning betting industry plan, it is harsh inevitability.
We have lost most, though possibly not all, of the tracks whose land values dwarf their earning potential as leisure facilities.
Despite all the hand wringing over the closures of Hall Green and Wimbledon, their fates were sealed in 2005 when Wembley plc sold out to property developers Galliard Homes – under the disguise of Risk Capital Partners.
(GRA has not existed as anything but a brand name for over 20 years)
Apart from the remaining tracks being commercially stronger – fever tracks means fewer trainers, and less breeding. That in itself is no bad thing. There has been overproduction for years.
Check out greyhound sales prices from three decades ago and they wouldn’t be so different to what you would find today.
Breeders need to get £800 for the sixth string in the litter if they are to make it pay – the £5,000 greyhound sells himself – but I can see that happening.
The catalyst for change has been the ARC/SIS media rights battle. It has brought its own issues including the (temporary) loss of SKY meetings, a shortage of runners (no bad thing!) and the copyrighting of race videos.
But the benefits have been huge in terms of prize money and trainer bonuses, particularly for the newly recruited SIS tracks who have never had it so good.
The new reality though has not been widely appreciated by trainers at many of the ARC/GMG tracks and to a limited extent, money is not the issue.
(* We need an aside inserted here. Trainer whinges are not entirely based on the level of prize money, they are about the perception of being ‘ripped off’.
Just one example, years ago Yarmouth trainers would regularly moan to the management about the ‘£30 prize money and £5 others’
But they would happily pay £1 to enter dogs at Bury St Edmunds, for a first prize £12’ and still have to pay admission to see their dogs run. Why? ‘Yarmouth were making fortunes’- apparently – but Bury weren’t’)
Anyway – a whole bunch of GMG contracted trainers have convinced themselves that they are being taken for mugs – though it is clear to me that many don’t understand what is happening.
Basically, when SIS decided to ditch BAGS and form their own service, the GMG tracks needed to find a backer to fill the void.
ARC stepped in, but with no Corals, Ladbrokes, Betfred (and others) cash coming in, there was huge hole in finances. ARC effectively agreed to ‘sub’ the GMG tracks for the extent of the conflict.
Few people know how big that tab is, but is probably somewhere between £13m-£14m per year.
Although ARC have since signed a string of contracts with various betting chains – including most recently Paddy Power – and are increasing revenue earnings abroad – including most recently in the USA – there is still a significant gap compared to previous income.
(Even RPGTV revenues are not going directly to the tracks but are reducing the £14m black hole.)
The net result is that the GMG tracks have less income than they had two years ago. Meanwhile their trainers are kicking off about being taken for mugs.
They are doing so despite the fact that most of the tracks are having to dig deeper. Increased prize money is visible above the water line, below it are trainers contracts, runner bonuses, plus additional support of injury and retirement schemes.
So that’s “Fuckingamesgone’ and ‘Promotersarerippinusoff’ covered what about ‘Thatfundinsallbent’?
Now if you want to read how the tracks and NGRC fleeced the BGRF (the ‘Fund’), you need to keep reading the ‘Remember When’ features. There is a ton of evidence.
I can’t remember how bad it was at its worst, but I have just come across a capital grants shopping list from 2005 that came to £1,567,109 from a total income of around £9.5m
Everything from ‘tote bar & asbestos survey @ £69,000’ to ‘turnstiles & workshops @ £113,580’. All from a net income of around £9.5m.
(The index linked figures would be capital grants of £2.11m from income of £13.4m)
In 2016/2017, the total funding from track grants came out at £116,000 from income of around £7.5m.
Now some dog men will moan about the £116K, perhaps feeling that they have a right to the money, but the tracks don’t.
But then you don’t hear a lot of shouting about the £190,000 that went out to trainer for kennel improvement grants last year – or the £865,000 that has been paid out in the last five years.
Guys – the days of ‘being screwed’ or believing you are – are over. I cannot see us ever having a surplus of trained greyhounds again.
You will be paid according to the demand for dogs and that is the best business model you could ask for or expect.
Now stop whining!