Gordon Bissett – is to step down as the Head of Greyhound Operations at SIS from the end of April to end a remarkable career in greyhound racing writes Floyd Amphlett.
After setting out as a betting shop manager in Glasgow, Bissett rose through the ranks at Ladbrokes and was appointed as the head of the company’s greyhound tracks more than 30 years ago.
The man described by Nick Savva as “having learned more about greyhound racing in a shorter time than anyone I have ever met”, soon became a leading expert on track racing circuits and surfaces. He traveled around the world to observe greyhound tracks from the biggest circuits in the USA and Australia, to schooling tracks in Ireland.
He studied sand composition, carrying out his own tests at Monmore and becoming an expert on quarries.
He studied the latest science on track design, bend shape and degrees of banking. He pursued the leading vets and trainers for their views and injury statistics. His pursuit of knowledge was absolute and relentless.
Above all else, Bissett is a man who could always back up his opinion with cold hard facts and in 1994 he put them all down on paper in brilliantly researched 24 page document entitled ‘Promoters’ Guide to a Safer Running Track’ . Nothing approaching it has been produced before or since.
He backed his judgement by investing £250K of his employers hard cash (around £445K today) in a new circuit at Monmore and was honoured with the Services to the Greyhound Industry award in 1999.
Indeed the industry wide perception that “the bookmaker tracks do the job properly” was born through Bissett’s attention to detail. For many year it was actually Bissett’s Ladbrokes tracks, not Coral or William Hill, that set the standards for others to follow.
It was Bissett who successfully lobbied for the rule which saw prize money withdrawn from competition winning who failed dope tests. However it was also Bissett who headed the NGRC review to allow trainers to use certain authorised medicaments for the patching up of minor injuries and a recommendation for the permitted use of the season suppressant Norethisterone.
However, the Scotsman never lost track of his first loyalty and he was considered the architect of the betting industry response to New Deal – a BGRB initiative to force the bookmakers to pay more for greyhound racing. The marquee battle was a picket of greyhound supporters at Monmore Green Stadium where Bissett headed a reception committee of two coach loads of security staff.
He departed as the Head of Stadia at Ladbrokes in late 2013, only to re-emerge as the senior greyhound consultant at SIS the following year. Some might claim that it was Bissett who set-off the current media rights war with plans to streamline the BAGS service.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, Bissett has established himself as one of the industry’s biggest beasts in the last three decades. Forthright, clear minded and driven, he remains hugely respected across all sectors of racing.
His SIS Head of Greyhound Operations role will be taken by his protegé Richard Brankley who followed from Ladbrokes in 2018. Who better to sum up his boss at both Ladbrokes and SIS?
Richard said: “I’ve worked with Gordon for over 20 years. An experience that was often entertaining and always educational. A man whose integrity was beyond reproach and work ethic second to none. He will be missed by us all in the workplace but I look forward to many more nights out with him and Maggie.”
Former Crayford boss Barry Stanton said: “I’ve known and worked with Gordon for nearly 30 years during which time he has always shown a steely determination to achieve the best outcome possible for whatever he was involved with. He was once described as a Glaswegian with attitude and I can confirm they weren’t wrong but that attitude brought out the best in the people that worked with him and ensured the bar was constantly raised in terms of standards and innovation within the industry. I wish him a long and happy retirement.”
Henlow/Towcester promoter Kevin Boothby said: “What can I say? He is an absolute top bloke. Without him I don’t know whether Doncaster, Central Park, Harlow, Henlow and Towcester would still be here. He believed in us and gave us the chance to show what we were capable of.
“But Gordon is also a good friend. He is a keen fisherman and I expect to see him at Towcester for the new carp lake. In fact, I hope and expect to still hear from him on a regular basis. His knowledge is just immense and I will continue to tap into it.”
Happy retirement Gordon!