Henlow promoter Kevin Boothby has been looking at options to break away from his track’s membership of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain and cancel his contract for the BAGS form database writes Floyd Amphlett.
He is angry over what he perceives as excessive charges demanded by both organisations and he has already faced a stand-off with BAGS.
He said: “They charge me £60,000 per year for use of Formnet. I asked them how they can justify charging one track for a system that is already operating, and where track employees input the vast majority of the information. They said they needed it to ‘maintain the software’
“It is a complete rip off and they know it. I told them last month that I wasn’t prepared to pay it, and they threatened to cut me off. I have since paid up but I am not prepared to let it go.”
Boothby is aware that all GBGB tracks are committed to the Formnet system and that by dropping out, it would create a breakdown in the entire form database.
The situation is further complicated by Henlow’s contract with SIS. BAGS is affiliated to their opposition, ARC, in the on-going media rights war.
Considering that there are 21 tracks, it appears a remarkable amount for the ‘not for profit’ organisation to charge for ‘maintenance’.
After further investigation however, we discovered that the total bill for an upgrade to Formnet and annual cost of running the service has been capped at £600K.
It therefore seems likely that Henlow are being charged a surplus due to their heavy fixture list, or alternately, they may expect a refund at the end of the year.
We are awaiting a response from BAGS and will afford them ample opportunity to explain their position should they choose to take it.
There is one additional twist to the tale. According to one source, the GBGB were offered the alternative Raceman service for free but opted to go with the BAGS option.
The opportunity to save money and keep the data ‘in-house’, was missed and it has since been reported that the Raceman program has since been “lost” by GBGB from a defunct server.
Boothby added: “I also resent paying £200,000 per year to GBGB. Between them that is colossal money for a small business like ours. We do a great job here. We pay good prize money and do huge amounts for greyhound welfare.
“Just think what I could do with an extra quarter of a million pounds per year in terms of new facilities at Henlow.”
Far from being just a rant about perceived injustice, Britain’s biggest owner has been sounding out his fellow SIS tracks.
He said: “I have spoken to several and I think a number would support me. In the first instance we could set up our own form database and take it from there. I have even looked at the options as to whether we could reach an agreement with the Irish Greyhound Board.
“Whatever happens, I want to see something done. We have done really well in the last year and both BAGS and GBGB have seen an opportunity to fleece us.
GBGB Managing Director Mark Bird said: “We wouldn’t want to see any track break away.
“Clearly there is clearly an opportunity to do so under the terms of legislation but I believe there would be considerable logistical ramifications associated with working under the control of local authorities.
“The issue of the tracks’ dispute with BAGS is between those two parties; I don’t intend to get involved.”
Additionally, the Star understands that the GBGB is currently reviewing whether it is receiving a good deal from its contract with PA Sport, the company who sell the data on behalf of GBGB/racecourse promoters.
It seems there are several potential options with at least one prepared to pledge a seven figure sum for the right to sell the data.
There is also a feeling from some within the industry that Bird and his team have been stretched to breaking point by fire-fighting welfare issues and that has put them on the back foot in industry commerciality; which in any case, have traditionally been led by the Race Course Promoters Association.
One respected industry insider who declined to be named stated: “Mark Bird is doing an excellent job but he needs more support. The greyhound industry in general doesn’t understand its relationship with the bookmakers and how they make money.
“As one example, GBGB charge special license fees for the races that are going into the betting shops, but later on the same card, races are being streamed around the world and not being charged for at all.
“A betting shop abroad might be charged a 15 pence streaming fee for a race which goes to the provider but GBGB misses out. While the shops were responsible for 98 per cent of turnover, that probably didn’t matter. But going forward – it will – more and more.”