by Pete Harnden – Trainers representative director at GBGB
The sport of greyhound racing is currently at the most pivotal time in its long history and three events have dramatically and positively affected my view of it.
The first was a visit to the Star Sports Derby Final at Towcester. I had long ago forgotten that a greyhound meeting could give me that type of buzz and I feared that it was unlikely to happen again.
My congratulations to everyone involved, from the management to the sponsors. It was a night of the which the sport could be proud and I found myself reviewing personal commitment to greyhound racing.
If we could still produce at spectacle of this calibre, the game was far from dead.
Finally of course, my hearty congratulations to all of the team at Seamus Cahill’s kennel on their win in the inaugural final with Astute Missile.
The ongoing major media battle between Satellite Information Services (SIS) and Arena Racing Company (ARC) has been the second factor that has given me renewed hope for the future.
As most readers are probably aware, SIS is significantly owned by LadbrokeCoral, Betfred and William Hill. SIS also have direct supply contracts with the four Ladbroke Coral owned tracks.
ARC own the media rights to the Greyhound Media Group (GMG) tracks and recently purchased two tracks of their own, Sunderland and Newcastle, from William Hills.
With both groups looking to produce ‘a BAGS’ service from January, it is widely known that there are not enough dogs/trainers to supply both.
It is also widely known that the GMG tracks asked their trainers to sign new 18 month contracts to provide runners to their particular track.
These contracts were produced in sync across a weekend at all tracks. I was as surprised as everybody else. In fact at my own track Nottingham, I was one of the last trainers to be asked to sign.
In my time in greyhound racing, this position is unique. All trainers feel that they are entitled to a bigger slice of the cake but this is the first time that the promoters have acknowledged that they can’t do without our dogs. We trainers have never have been in such a strong bargaining position.
The media rights conflict has produced an unexpected opportunity for some of the smaller tracks to gain some financial support
I am thinking of places like Henlow, who are signed to SIS – a good, honest grass roots track, attended by good people and with a real greyhound man in Kevin Boothby running the show.
For years tracks like Henlow have struggled on by, abandoned by the establishment, the bigger tracks, and the betting industry.
Integrity issues were always murmured as a reason for the lack of support towards such venues. Now, at a time of unrest, those apparent issues weren’t issues after all!
This battle between ARC and SIS is like any battle. There will be winners and losers.
When that day dawns, some will find themselves struggling worse than they are now. The short term will not be repeated. This is why we all need to think long term , it’s the only way that we will survive this battle and in the long run be much better off for it.
Until that day I recognise that trainers who are contracted to either side must do what is best for themselves and their families.
However, personally, and from an overall industry perspective, I feel I must support the GMG camp.
Quite simply, the apparent SIS model for a contracted greyhound industry would be far more damaging to a greater number of all participants, particularly greyhound trainers.
The third and final reason for my enthusiasm concerns the appointment on the Greyhound Board of Great Britain of Paul Ephremsen to represent owners.
I cannot understate the regard in which I hold Paul. His enthusiasm and his will to succeed are something we as a sport are lucky to have.
Paul has many great ideas and I only hope that people get behind him and help him to implement as many of his ideas as possible.
I was lucky enough to be invited by Paul to sit in on the first meeting of his recently formed Innovation panel. There were many great ideas shared in a brainstorming session. I’ll not go into too many details as this is Paul’s side of things but I can only reiterate how impressed I was and if people get behind him the sport will end up a better place for all owners , myself included.
Other news :
1) Concerns meetings I have recently attended at the office of British Standards Institute with regards to the standards of kennels.
Various groups were represented including GBGB , RSPCA, and Dogs Trust to name just a few.
I was pleased to be able to have an input into the meetings. A lot of kennels will need a fair bit of work to be brought up to the Publically Available Specification standards. Get used to the term PAS.
However from a point of view of welfare this can only be a good thing and is paramount to the future success of the sport. I will update on this when I can but in the meantime if any of you have any concerns drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those who would like a personal view, I am taking time out to visit as many trainers as possible personally around the country.
This will be no easy task and though calling a meeting at each track might be deemed as easier , I wish to meet people personally and give individuals the opportunity to talk to me in private and in confidence with any concerns they have.
I cannot stress enough that I have taken on this role due to my love of the sport and my sincerest wish that it has a future for many years to come.
2) – I would like to address the rumour suggesting that greyhounds in the care of GMG track based trainers cannot run in opens at other tracks. This is totally wrong.
If you have a dog that is open class or is potentially open class , your runner will be able to compete at any track which your trainer wishes to enter. What the contracts aim to do is to limit the amount of dogs that are obviously not of open class quality from being entered into opens at other tracks and leaving their home track short of options for graded races.
This is just simple common sense from any business looking to run their ship in a sensible manner and many trainers will have already had a clause in their contracts stating that the home track has first call on their charges in any event.
What I say to all trainers is – if you feel that you’re track has prevented you from entering a greyhound into an open at any track at all and if that runner is of genuine open class or potential open class quality , then you contact me without delay.
I feel so strongly that this will both not be the case and indeed should not be the case that I will personally take up your case with the track involved.
I look forward to meeting you all very soon.