BGRF2017.pdf

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Chairman’s Personal Statement

Last year we welcomed the opportunity to publicise our work to wider audiences with the EFRA Select Committee hearings and subsequent DEFRA publication. We were able to dispel some myths and enable a wider understanding of the role of the BGRF within the sport.

It is right that both the GBGB and BGRF, as the sport’s main bodies, come under proper and regular public scrutiny. Nevertheless, our solid and demonstrable performance in defending the sport’s welfare and integrity provision continues to come under pressure from fringe activists and their strange ‘fake news’ agenda which seems to work on the principle that a falsehood repeated often enough becomes an alternative truth. I won’t dignify some of the curious allegations I have heard over the past year by repeating them myself!

Our FAQ section shows in some detail how we make decisions on grant awards for those who are interested in having more details of our procedures.

Income

Our income over the past financial year ending 31st March 2017 held up well in a difficult climate, totalling just over £7.5m (2016: £7.2m). Holding steady at this level for the past few years now is a relief but hardly an achievement when set against the increasing demands of regulation and the rising cost of its provision. Overall there was a small profit for the year and it was considered prudent to add to the reserves, which are not over-provided, rather than rush into any expenditure plans.

Welfare

For the GBGB the priority continued to be the provision of enhanced kennelling. The GBGB is conducting a fundamental review of standards in conjunction with representatives from other welfare organisations. A specification for trainers’ kennels is being developed in conjunction with the British Standards Institution (BSI) and in future this will apply in all places where kennels are required – with the exception of track kennels which already come under the provisions of the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010. It is expected that a BSI Publicly Available Specification (PAS) will be approved at the end of 2017.

Because there are a large number of trainers – some 885 in total of which the majority are either Greyhound Trainers or Professional Trainers with kennel facilities – ensuring that all kennels meet an enhanced standard will have significant cost implications. We consider this essential for the maintenance of the highest welfare standards in our sport and the question is simply how we manage to afford this in future.

Other welfare areas funded consistently year on year by the BGRF are: track sub-committee welfare projects, research projects, training and welfare consultancy, veterinary sub-committee projects and research, and field-force welfare services. In addition, the stadia welfare support grant helps fund veterinary attendance at the stadia, something which has been required under Rules for as long as I can remember. Last calendar year welfare provision, as outlined above, constituted 42% percent of overall budget, with a total expenditure of £3,103,500. In addition, prize money of £2,215,000 was expended, at 30% of budget (2017 budget: welfare of £3,036,000, plus prize money of £2,143,000).

Integrity

Integrity provision is another essential area of funding by the BGRF, both to protect confidence in the betting markets but also as a further element of welfare (and additional to the welfare budget outlined above). We help to fund drugs research, as well as testing at the stadia, ensuring the GBGB is able to exercise constant vigilance – the deterrent effect of the GBGB drugs regime is demonstrated by the very low number of positives seen each year. This is only possible with the hard work of sampling stewards at the stadia who often work long and late hours on race nights. In the calendar year 2016 we spent £1,347,000 or 18% of budget (2017 budget: £1,349,000 or 18.7%).

Grants to Stadia

Grants to stadia expenditure remained static at just under £120,000 shared between 25 racecourses. The Fund board decided to permit write-backs of other grants to be ploughed back into this budget enabling a slight uplift from the budget of £100,000. Full details of grants awarded are shown here.

For many stadia, trading continues to be tough: although there are now some encouraging signs that the economy as a whole is starting to pull out of recession, the future effect of Brexit on overheads and consumer confidence now becomes hard to estimate. The closure of Wimbledon Stadium to make way for a housing scheme after a lengthy planning debate at the end of March 2017 marked a sad end to the financial year.

However, on a positive note we were delighted that Towcester was able to take over the Star Sports (English) Derby, widely reported to be a great success. Towcester has made great strides since starting to offer Greyhound racing in December 2015. They did not receive one penny of capital funding from the BGRF during their first year of operation and must be congratulated for the sheer energy and commitment that has brought them this opportunity.

It’s worth noting that grants to stadia are awarded on a match-funding basis up to a maximum of 50% and that all applications must follow a rigorous inspection process before they can be considered by the Board. Some details of this are shown in our FAQ section here if you’d like to know more about this.

Overall in 2016, commercial expenditure including grants to stadia, marketing, IT, and breeders prizes totalled £734,200 or just under 10% of our budget (2017 budget: £672,000 or 9%).

Supporters

The Fund’s bookmaker contributors have remained remarkably loyal throughout our nearly 25 years of existence. We show a full list of our supporters here. At the time of writing contributions come largely from the high-street retail sector, with the honourable exceptions of bet365, a major contributor which operates solely online, and the sports spread betting company Sporting Index.

However, I am delighted to report that the Remote Gambling Association agreed to recommend to its members recently that they make voluntary contributions to the BGRF in future. This remains only a recommendation at this time, but we are grateful for this statement of support in principle.

Whilst the number of smaller operators continues to decline because of increased overheads and increasing cost of regulation, the proportion of the whole sector represented by our existing contributors increases. Although the list may appear short, in fact over 90% of all retail betting shops are represented there whilst contributions remain voluntary.

However, the betting shops face many challenges, not least of which is the Government review of FOBTs. Whilst not wishing to express an opinion on what may or may not be the appropriate level of wager here, it appears to be the case that a drastic reduction in the level of maximum stakes could lead to severe consequences in the retail betting sector and so threaten the LBOs which are the core generators of our income. Current indications are that a decision will be taken this autumn.

Directors

During the year we said goodbye to John Haynes and John Curran after lengthy service on the board. I am most grateful to them both for their strong support for the work of the BGRF and their good advice over many years.

The GBGB has recently overseen the election of a new Owners’ representative for their board, Paul Ephremsen, and we are delighted he will be joining the board of the BGRF, enabling us to maintain a diversity of interest around the table. John Gilburn has also joined us as a new GBGB representative and brings valuable experience to the board.

The merger of Ladbroke and Coral has also meant the loss of Mike O’Kane and his replacement with Richard Lang. Mike brought a wealth of experience of the betting sector to the table and his contributions will be greatly missed.

I’d also like to mention that Barry Faulkner has announced his retirement from the role of chief executive of the GBGB with effect from November 2017. As a BGRF board member Barry has played a key role in mediating between the sport and the bookmakers and his knowledge of and enthusiasm for greyhound racing – and betting – is second to none. We wish him well in his future endeavours.

I’d like to add at this point that Tom Kelly, chairman of the GBGB, announced in April he was stepping down after two years at the helm, and to record my personal thanks and best wishes to him. I understand Tom will be continuing in a consultancy role for the GBGB. Robert Griffiths QC will be acting as interim chairman until a full-time appointment is made and we look forward to working with a new GBGB chairman and chief executive in due course.

I’m grateful to those directors who voluntarily serve on the board committee and the audit & finance committee as well. We don’t pay our directors and offer only basic travel expenses, so I would like to thank them all for their time and support. A full list of directors appears here, with a note about some post-year-end changes.

The Future

Last year I spoke of my hopes for the future and it does seem the future is advancing towards us more slowly than I had anticipated. The widely recognised need for more funding for the sport remains as urgent as ever. Whilst preliminary talks took place last year, it is likely that bookmaker participants were waiting for a determination on the horserace levy replacement scheme but as this has now been decided with effect from 25 April 2017, I much hope that the two sides can now come together once more with some urgency to find a mutually beneficial solution.

I am delighted that Lord Lipsey, a long-term and tireless supporter of greyhound racing and former British Greyhound Racing Board Chairman, has agreed to act as a mediator in discussions and I have every confidence in his ability to forge a lasting agreement in the coming months. We are fortunate indeed in securing his involvement.

Last year I said I was cautiously optimistic about the future and I do remain so. I’ve been in the business a long time and I know there are always troubles on the horizon as well as opportunities – that’s life. Whatever emerges over the coming year will certainly be interesting for us all.



Joe Scanlon

Chairman, BGRF


The BGRF Annual Report is available in full here.

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