I always enjoy speaking to, and indeed reading the thoughts of Henlow promoter Kevin Boothby. Kevin has turned Henlow from being a track on the verge of closure, to a track that is thriving and becoming more and more successful with each passing month.
The running surface at Henlow has always been second to none. As Kevin himself points out, he is the largest single owner at the track, it’s in his own interests as well as everybody else’s for the track to be in the best possible condition.
I pointed out last year that it was good to see tracks like Henlow finally getting the financial support that they both need and deserve. It was a shame that this only came about due to the media rights battle but at least it did in the end arrive.
Now had Kevin Boothby been a selfish man he could have made himself very rich out of the whole deal. He could have kept prize money levels as they were, he could have made do with the facilities remaining as they were, basically he could have spent very little, pocketed the money coming in and said thank you very much.
That however isn’t Kevin Boothby.
But as much as we are mates, I find it hard to believe that he is such a superior businessman that he is the only promoter who has negotiated a deal allowing him to be so generous.
You would have to believe that other promoters have also negotiated lucrative deals for their tracks, yet haven’t put a similar level of that income back into the sport.
For most people, GRA represents the worst in track promoters and it is the first name to come up when owners and trainers feel hard done by. Sure they might have more in the way of overheads. But let’s be serious for one minute here, they have put very little back into this sport for many years.
Prize money at their tracks has been extremely poor. Refurbishment of facilities has been near to non-existent.
However, as the editor has pointed out to me recently – not only does ‘GRA’ not own any tracks, it hasn’t existed as a company for 20 years, apart from the trading name used by Clive Feltham for his two tracks. He also believes that had Clive not been around, Galliards would have closed Wimbledon and Hall Green five years earlier.
I think there is an argument that says Clive could increase prize money, though I don’t think it is realistic that he will heavily invest in properties that are owned by the local council or a pension fund.
Basically, having a pop at ‘GRA’ is a bit like trying to fight a ghost.
The original GRA did do things properly with well run kennels, good prize money and high standards – and they still made a decent profit for their shareholders.
But as greyhound racing went into decline, from the early 1960s, when they owned twelve tracks, they stopped investing, sold their tracks and screwed every penny they could from their owners and trainers.
Reduced living standards for trainers inevitably meant declining welfare for their greyhounds.
The trainers wouldn’t let their greyhounds suffer. So what happens? The trainers yet again subsidise the greyhounds welfare whilst allowing their own living standards to suffer even further.
Some of the promoters try to tell us that greyhound racing is barely paying its way. Without cost cutting the business model doesn’t work.
Kevin Boothby has made it work.
He might not make the profits of some of the others but he has created his own business model that is sustainable.
As the supply of owners, trainers and greyhounds continues to dry up, you won’t find a problem at Henlow.
I was also shocked to learn this week that some bookmakers are totally in the dark as to how their streaming rights money is being spent.
I was stunned to find out that some bookmakers believed that a large percentage of this money makes it’s way back into the sport to support the trainers and the welfare of the greyhounds.
In fact I believe some high ranking individuals at one bookmaker were stunned to hear that the money they pay for the streaming rights, is significantly swallowed up by those providing the service.
If this belief is held throughout the bookmaking industry, it’s no wonder that some of them have been playing hard ball.
We need to get the message out there that those of us supplying the product for this sport, and those of us doing the hard hours, we’re getting very little of the big money seen at the ‘suit’ end of the spectrum.
Talks are still on-going between the GBGB and the firms regarding the voluntary 0.6% donation to the fund. Things aren’t always fast moving but they do seem to be heading in the right direction.
As I have previously stated, if and when this money is brought in, and believe me it is needed as a matter of extreme urgency, it will all be spent on welfare initiatives to benefit the greyhounds.
This sport does have a future, but it needs everybody from the promoters to the bookmakers to realise that they must invest in it.
The trainers, owners and other enthusiasts cannot hold it up for too much longer.