Former GBGB representative Bob Boswell comments on the Board’s Owners Bonus scheme
One of the things Paul Emphrensen implemented during his tenure as Owners Rep on the GBGB Board was changes in the way BGRF grant money was distributed to owners. Paul was right, it had become jaded, the money was spread to thinly, and the Owners Bonus Races, passed off month on month, year on year, barely without notice. Paul’s plan must have been a good one, because he pushed it through with almost full support, and in quick time.
The changes were quite simple, and the ethos sound. Between April and November have four Maxi Bonus races worth £1000 to the winner, have four Mini Bonus Series races worth £500 to the winner, and hold four Owners and Trainers Nights when there would be ten races with with £150.00 added to the prize money, trophies, photographs, a presentation jacket, and £450.00 provided towards food, for owners and trainers. Owners and trainers would all meet together in a social setting, there was supposed to be some kind of fundraising, preferably for Retired Greyhounds, and owners and trainers could use the night to introduce new owners to greyhound racing, or encourage lapsed owners to come back. What was there not to like? What could go wrong?
Well in my humble opinion, for the most part, promoters did not buy in to the idea.
If you have graded runners, running for either £500.00 or £1000.00 then you should be advertising the fact, making some buzz around it, you have only got to do it eight times, but some tracks ran heats on a Wednesday afternoon, and the final the following Wednesday, or a final of a Maxi Bonus run at 12.00 on a Friday. Did any owners get to watch thier dog live, I think not. Now the man in your local betting shop, could not care less whether the dog is running for £5.00 or £500.00, the owners of the six lucky dogs, either watched with them, on thier electronic device, or missed the race entirely because they were working. When I asked why a final was run on a Wednesday, and suggested that it would be better on a Friday or Saturday night, and that why had the race not been better advertised, I was told the local paper would have zero interest. I never asked them to advertise them in the local, press, the national press or any other press, but what I would expect is for those media channels easily open to them to be utilised, use a catchy # and tweet the hell out of the event, utilise the numerous Facebook pages and trainers websites. “Good luck to xxxxx in xxxx kennels, see if they can carry off the £1000.00/£500.00 tonight”. Try to generate some interest, you never know it might encourage a few Owners through your door, they might spend some money, have a bet, bring a friend.
This brings me to the Owners and Trainers Nights, what a great opportunity, you are being given £450.00 to host an evening, on four ocassions, if you advertise it right, give over a private area, you should be guaranteed in excess of 100 people, you are seen to help Retired dogs, you are giving just a very little back to Owners, you might get some new owners, win, win, win.
Some tracks really bought in to the idea, held Curry Nights, Darts Competitions, B-B-Q’s, advertised them widely, invited all owners, and exceeded thier budgets, put on really good food and rewarded owners. The idea to encourage new owners in to the sport, did not quite happen, but the opportunity was there, and some tracks at least tried
Sadly I recently attended an Owners and Trainers Night, where zero effort had been made, the owners invites were in the smallest print, contained in the racecard, and attendance was only by prior notification to the track. The food was minimal, and not of the highest quality. When I subsequently raised my concerns, I was told that at the first O/T night, no food had been provided! Now tracks get £450.00 for holding the night, they are not expected to provide an invoice for every bread roll. By my reckoning Owners are owed about £800.00, will they be treated any differently at the remaining two nights, I am afraid I have no confidence that they will, Owners at the track tell me that there has not been any additional drive to encourage people to attend.
I rather fear that this is not isolated to just this one track. I will however still be fighting for the budget for the O/T nights and the Mini and Maxi Series to continue in 2019. Owners need to hold thier tracks to account if they run them midweek, and don’t advertise them, demand they are held on a Friday or Saturday Night, make tracks aware that you care, even if they do not. Communication of the conditions and reasons for holding the O/T Nights needs to be improved, and Owners need to demand from their local tracks that they are held, that the food budget is spent and some charitable fundraising is undertaken. If owners knew they were being held and could guarantee a good night, with good food, then perhaps they might have the confidence to invite friends, relatives business contacts, who just might buy a dog, or join a Syndicate, and we might just fulfill another of Paul’s ideas. As the line from one of my favourite films “Field of Dreams” says. “Build it, and they will Come”.
Chris Quatrine reflect on a visit to Derry and industry concerns
I would just like to use this forum to thank the good folk of Derry for their friendlyness during my recent visit to The Brandywell (Monday 15-10-18). The racing was competitive and well attended by an enthusiastic crowd. The facilities were basic but more than adequate. This visit completed my full set of tracks in both G.B and Ireland as well as many further afield
Having attended the dogs for over 40 years I fear now that it is a dying game unless some way can be found to sell the product to a wider audience.