Dr. Sean Brady, Chief Executive of Greyhound Racing Ireland (GRI), formally known as the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) has today (Friday February 3) cancelled a race meeting scheduled for Saturday night (February 4) at Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium due to a planned picket.

It is deeply disappointing that some involved in the greyhound industry should propose to picket a race meeting at GRI’s Shelbourne Park Stadium tomorrow night. 

At a time when the industry is grappling with serious financial and structural difficulties, it is even more concerning that anyone would think that disrupting the industry racing calendar and commercial operations will in some way advance their interests. 

As recently as Wednesday, I met with members of Dublin Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association (DGOBA ). I told them that as  Interim Chief Executive,  I have no interest in revisiting history or in apportioning blame for things that happened in the industry ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Neither am I going to get involved in the various spats between personalities that have obviously been a feature of GRI for a long, long time. 

GRI is charged with managing the current situation and dealing with issues that demand attention urgently.  The fundamentals are very worrying. GRI is very seriously challenged financially and nobody should be in any doubt that the organisation faces a defining period. 

At the end of 2015, net group debt stood at €21.6 million. GRI continues to work very closely with its banking partners to manage issues arising from legacy debt of €12.5 million relating to Limerick Stadium which continues to overhang the industry and inhibit its development. GRI also operates on the basis of a term loan facility of €6 million which is subject to fixed annual repayments, together with the application of any proceeds of Rásaíocht Con Éireann’s asset disposal policy to end of 2017.

The balance of this facility was reduced to €4.65 million as of December 31 2015. In addition, GRI has an approved overdraft facility of €6.25 million. 

Many stadia are still facing financial difficulties, even when the contribution of Tote profits is factored in. Difficult decisions have to be made as the current position cannot continue indefinitely. If this industry is to have any kind of viable future, it has to be on the basis of reducing its debt to sustainable levels. There isn’t any alternative to that. 

The Indecon Report which was commissioned by the Government and published in 2014 is the most comprehensive review of the industry ever undertaken. It is very stark and outlines an asset disposal plan, including the sale of Harolds Cross Stadium.  The objective here is to reduce interest payments, eliminate bank borrowings and create a viable future for the industry. It’s also about establishing a single top of the range stadium in Dublin. As far as I am concerned, that sale will proceed. 

On foot of the planned protest at Shelbourne Park Stadium tomorrow night about the future of Harolds Cross,  GRI has taken the decision to cancel racing at the stadium. This decision was taken in the interests of animal welfare and of owners, trainers, staff and patrons.  Such a protest will expose owners and trainers who want their dogs to race, our patrons, our staff and our service providers to unwarranted stress, tension and possibly intimidation. GRI are not prepared to countenance such a scenario and I have ordered the cancellation of the event. 

Dr, Sean Brady, Interim Chief Executive Officer, GRI