Chairman’s Christmas Message 2016
As always, I welcome the opportunity to extend Christmas Greetings to all involved in the greyhound industry.
It is a wonderful time of the year and all involved in the greyhound industry will enjoy the break but will also be making plans for 2017
As someone who has been deeply involved all my life, I am very much aware of the challenges that owners and trainers face as part of the industry that is changing, not just in Ireland, but worldwide.
Greyhound racing is now in a period of great transition. It faces changing consumer tastes, higher spectator expectations, new demographics and competition in the “leisure” space from many other sports and activities. Nothing can remain as it was.
Greyhound Racing Ireland is acutely aware of the impacts of these changes and has worked extremely hard to mitigate their effects but also to identify opportunities which changed market conditions present, notably in the area of new technologies.
Much of Greyhound Racing Ireland's focus in the past two years has been on the implementation of the Indecon Report which was commissioned by former Minister, Tom Hayes, and is the most comprehensive review of the industry ever undertaken. Virtually all of the 27 recommendations in the Report have been implemented at this point and although some of the actions required have not been popular, they have the potential to be transformational.
By the end of December 2016, bank debt at GRI will have been reduced by circa €2 million. A whole raft of radical changes in governance, regulation, welfare and finance has been instituted in the past few years by Greyhound Racing Ireland. This progress, in my view, has led to the important continuation and enhancement of State subvention to the industry which employs several thousand people. In this regard, the allocation in Budget 2017 of €16million was most welcome.
We have ramped up our dialogue with stakeholders to ensure that they are up to date with the legislative, regulatory and other changes that are happening in the industry. We greatly value their input which has been informed and constructive. Their acknowledgement of the work undertaken by the organisation in respect of issues which are of critical importance to them is very encouraging.
Unfortunately, there are those who have no interest in dialogue, no interest in dealing in facts. To judge from the ongoing, orchestrated and often personalised criticisms of GRI by this small cohort, nothing has been or is being achieved. The biggest frustration caused by their actions is the realisation that the only damage they are doing is to the industry of which they are a part. They refuse to acknowledge that the industry’s issues are complex and that there is no “quick fix” or “silver bullet”. Their attacks are unremitting and devoid of considerations of fairness, balance or accuracy.
I often ask myself whether these critics have any idea of or concern for the damage they are inflicting on the industry, on its commercial potential or on their fellow owners, trainers and supporters. Apparently not.
The Board of GRI which includes new members with successful backgrounds in finance, regulation, veterinary and legal, will continue to work as hard as they can to oversee this important industry. They face a huge task not only to radically change the business model for the industry but also to manage extremely high levels of inherited debt that have inhibited GRI’s capacity to implement many of the things it would wish to do.
I would like to thank them for their continued efforts and commitment. A special word of thanks too to our staff in head office and across the country.
Finally, I will end with a thank you to you, our dedicated supporters and patrons of the sport.
I wish you and all greyhound people, both track and field, a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and Happy New Year in 2017.
Chairman, Irish Greyhound Board – Rásaíocht Con Éireann