Strategic Plan marks ‘A new beginning’ for Greyhound sector
The Strategic Plan 2018- 2022 for the Irish Greyhound sector allows for ‘a new beginning’ according to the Chairman of Greyhound Racing Ireland (GRI) (previously known as the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) Phil Meaney.
A report by Economist Jim Power also launched, highlights the industry’s contribution to economic activity, particularly in rural Ireland, with spending of over €300 million nationally (see below).
The Strategic Plan lists three distinct pillars for growth: increasing greyhound ownership, promoting a racing centric and betting model, and improved customer experience. However the Plan emphasises the foundations for this growth will be based on greyhound welfare, integrity and regulation, employee development and information technology. The five year plan proposes a capital development programme totalling €12 million which includes a €3 million upgrade of Ireland’s premier greyhound stadium, Shelbourne Park. The report recognises however that all investments over the five year period are contingent on financial resources being available. The investment plan will also require Government approval before any surplus from the Harold’s Cross sale (€23 million) can be used, and the semi-state company will have to adhere to a strict public spending code and capital investment appraisal process for all projects.
Speaking today GRI Chairman Phil Meaney commented ‘The Strategic Plan coincides with a dramatically improved financial position. For the past seven years, managing a long term debt of some €20 million acted as a financial strait-jacket on our industry. The sale of Harold’s Cross, now in its final stages of completion, will clear this debt and allows the industry to start afresh.’
Addressing the industry’s criticism on welfare and regulation, Gerard Dollard, CEO added ‘While the financial plan may change, our commitment to integrity and welfare will not. In our industry, from every kennel to every racing track, the greyhound comes first. And we will continue to clearly demonstrate our welfare commitment through actions, not just words. Our regulatory position will be strengthened once the proposed Greyhound Industry Bill is enacted. This legislation will allow a clearer legal framework to ensure integrity and the IGB have proposed a new traceability measure so we can account for every greyhound in our industry. Our Welfare Officers have legal authority to inspect kennels, issue fines and initiate prosecutions, in some cases with the cooperation of the Gardai. All welfare reports are fully investigated and the IGB have secured several prosecutions. From 5294 samples taken from greyhounds at race tracks, private kennels and sales meetings in 2017, there were 29 adverse findings for prohibited substances. Every adverse finding and every subsequent fine or sanction is published on our website for all to see. Three individuals have been banned for doping or welfare offences. These individuals are disqualified from owning, training or managing a racing greyhound. The conversation around welfare has been dominated for too long by animal rights activists who are opposed to the use of animals for all sports or entertainment purposes.’
A report by Economist Jim Power, The Economic and Financial Significance of the Irish Greyhound Industry calculates there are 5,058 full and part-time jobs within the sector with a further 7,313 greyhound owners deriving economic benefit. The impact of this employment creates €171 million in additional spending while the greyhound owners contribute €135 million in spending. The national industry therefore contributes €300 million in additional economic activity. Of the 16 stadia within Ireland, 15 are located outside Dublin which the report states, highlights the contribution to rural communities in additional jobs and spending. The PAYE/PRSI contribution per annum is estimated at €12.7 million. The report’s methodology is not directly comparable to an earlier report by Jim Power published in 2010.
Economist Jim Power commented ‘The greyhound industry has weathered a perfect storm in recent years. The combination of falling attendances due to greater mobile and online betting, fall in consumer spending due to the worst economic recession, a general decline in financial support and finally a significant long term legacy debt, has stifled this industry. The economic recovery, increasing consumer spending and the improved financial position of the IGB are the basis for optimism. Horse and Greyhound racing receive exchequer support as it is recognised that both support considerable employment, more so than other sports. This exchequer support is based on the Horse & Greyhound Fund which places a levy on off-course bookmakers. These traditional industries also make a contribution to the social and cultural life in Ireland. Despite the fall in recent years, there are over 12,000 people deriving economic benefit from the greyhound industry. A sustainable recovery is possible for the sector in the years ahead.’