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Chairman’s Personal Statement

Any review of this year’s activities must begin by paying tribute to my predecessor Tom Kelly who stepped down as Chairman at the end of August 2015. Tom and I have worked closely on various committees over the years and I have always admired his sanguine approach to finding solutions by first bringing opposing parties to the table. Therefore it was no surprise to me that he was appointed to take on the major challenge of leading the sport’s governing body, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB).

Tom was a founder member of the Fund back in 1992, when following the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont’s reduction to the rate of general betting duty, bookmakers and the greyhound industry joined forces and formed the BGRF. Relationships between the two parties in those earlier days could at times prove difficult and Tom deserves great credit that in his four and a half years as Chairman, the Fund has been united in its desire to enable the sport to continue in what has been at times a challenging economic landscape. I hope I can follow in his footsteps.

Income

Turning now to the Fund’s performance for our accounting year April 2015 to March 2016. Our income held reasonably steady at £7.2m (2014-15: £7.3m) – higher than we had anticipated at the beginning of 2015 when forming a budget of £7m for the sport.

However, there is no doubt that with more or less static resources, the directors of the Fund have had to make difficult choices to ensure that the limited resources available are directed towards our key objectives: welfare and integrity.

Welfare

Because our income held up better than expected this last year, we found ourselves in the fortunate position at the year-end of being able to establish a Welfare Initiatives Fund of £0.5m for passing to the Greyhound Board for the use of the GBGB Welfare Committee. This will provide the initial funding for kennel improvement schemes and other welfare initiatives. The GBGB has a demanding role securing and enhancing the welfare of our sport and the cost of such provision inevitably rises each year with increasing expectations.

The BGRF has made submissions to both EFRA and DEFRA in the past few months and it became clear to me that, unfortunately, there is not the understanding of the role of the BGRF that I had imagined. We welcomed the opportunity to publicise our work to new audiences and as always, to ask ourselves whether there are areas in which we could seek improvement.

Current areas of welfare we fund include: track sub-committee welfare projects, research projects, training and welfare consultancy; veterinary sub-committee projects and research, training and field-force welfare services; welfare support for trainers; and the stadia welfare support grant to help fund the presence of vets at all meetings and trials required at GBGB-licensed racecourses.

As a trustee of the Retired Greyhound Trust animal welfare is close to my heart and I fully support my colleagues at the GBGB and their dedication to animal welfare provision. We have managed to maintain our contribution to the Retired Greyhound Trust at £1.4m, a significant sum but one that has remained at current levels for some years now.

Welfare accounts for 47.1% of the Fund’s total budgeted expenditure in 2016, including the Welfare Initiatives Fund (2015: 42.2%). We give a breakdown on page 24.

The other major heading which has welfare implications is prize money – a vital ingredient to helping owners and trainers enhance their own welfare provision. This year 27.7% of budget will be spent on prize money.

Integrity

Strict regulation of the sport is paramount if the betting public are to maintain confidence in the product. This year we are contributing £640,000 towards the cost of sampling at tracks and trainers kennels, £200,000 towards field-force integrity services and a further £410,000 towards racecourse integrity measures. Whilst this is a significant part of our total budgeted expenditure (a total of 16.7%), the demands for further research to combat new drugs weigh heavily on the GBGB.

Grants to Stadia

In having to maintain our support to welfare, prize money and integrity it has proved impossible to provide the levels of support provided in previous years for direct grants to stadia with just £178,000 awarded in total during 2015-16. A full list of projects supported appears on page 23.

I firmly believe that financial investment is the lifeline to the future prosperity of any successful business. It’s a sad reflection that in all the years I have been involved in greyhound racing I’ve only ever witnessed the overall number of tracks decline. Apart from the brave and successful initiative at Towcester I’ve yet to see any interest from financial institutions prepared to invest in greyhound stadia. Overall, commercial investments including marketing, IT investment, and breeders prizes will constitute 8.5% of our budget this year.

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.

Our website, www.bgrf.org.uk, has an interesting FAQ section if you’d like to know more about this.

Supporters

The main supporters of the Fund are its bookmaker contributors and it goes without saying that we would not have been able to operate successfully for over 20 years without their support. During that time our income has come from voluntary payments made largely by operators of high street betting shops, a list of which is shown on page 22. The honourable exceptions are bet365, who have supported us for many years from their exclusively online business and who are a major contributor to our work, and Sporting Index. We are extremely grateful for the support of all our contributors and I would urge those operators whose names are not listed to join their colleagues – we now have over 90% of all LBOs supporting the industry.

It was pointed out to the Fund that some smaller LBO operators that don’t have epos systems may have difficulty in assessing their annual greyhound turnover. In order to simplify the process this year we have introduced a system based on the horse race Levy default rate. Full details of how this will operate are available either by contacting the Fund secretary or can be viewed on our website.

Directors

I am delighted to report that there was unanimous support for Will Roseff, representing bet365, to join us following a vacancy on the board. bet365 is a significant contributor to the BGRF and Will’s appointment is a clear signal of the way ahead for us. Will joined us at the end of March 2016, a day or two before our year-end, so we much look forward to his experienced and valuable input in the year ahead.

I’d like to thank Simon Walmsley for agreeing to sit on the audit & finance committee, joining Clive Feltham in this important role. Our board has remained unchanged otherwise during the period and I thank our directors as always for their unstinting voluntary service.

The Future

That brings me to my hopes and wishes for the Fund going forward. Key to that has to be our ability to increase our income so that we may not only continue to adhere to the highest welfare and integrity standards – prominent in the recent Government review into greyhound racing – but also encourage future investment in the sport.

Unfortunately betting shops have never been under greater financial and political pressure than they are today. We are now seeing the global number of LBOs falling annually with some analysts forecasting a further a 1,000 shops closing in the next 4 to 5 years. Betting shops are, in addition to some unique challenges, facing the same threats as most other high street retailers today.

However, as chairman of the Fund it is not my role to become involved in bookmaker negotiations. For those who are not aware, half of the board of the BGRF are bookmaker representatives and just over half are representatives of the sport (page 21 lists our directors with their appointing members as at the year-end). The virtue of the BGRF is that it provides a forum for discussion between the two, furthering good relations between the parties who have a common interest in improving and promoting all aspects of licensed greyhound racing – our mission statement which is sometimes overlooked. I know that the GBGB is working hard to strike a deal beneficial to both bookmaking and to the sport of greyhound racing to take us forward into the next decade and, at the time of writing, I am cautiously optimistic this will be achieved.



Joe Scanlon

Chairman, BGRF


Page references refer to the BGRF publication, available in full here.

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