The GRI (IGB) announced this week that its CEO, Gerard Dollard, is to leave the position in September 2021. While the announcement was unexpected, it will be welcomed by people who understand the industry and still hold hopes that the industry can survive.

2017:

When Mr Dollard was appointed CEO in September 2017, the industry was in freefall. The failure to deal with integrity matters plus the growing public concern for welfare issues meant that real change was going to be required within the industry if it was going to survive.

According to the Sunday Times, a representative of SIS attended a Board meeting in October of 2018 and was quoted as saying “The main issues with Irish greyhound racing are high-profile integrity issues such as positive tests and betting incidents, which serve to undermine turnover at Irish tracks. The key challenge in selling Irish greyhound racing is a consumer lack of confidence.”

 

The IGB needed a dynamic individual as CEO, a person that understood betting. We needed a person that had the courage to take on the status quo and implement the changes needed to build a vibrant self-financing industry. Mr Dollard was employed by Clare County Council when he applied for the IGB position in 2017, he had spent the previous 35 years working for Clare and Limerick County Councils. While we were clearly not privy to the intricacies of the recruitment process, it was unlikely that a person with such a career path was going to possess the skills required to turn the greyhound industry around. From the day that Mr Dollard was appointed the expectations were not high.

At the National Greyhound Consultative Forum of 28 April 2021, The GRI’s presentation stated that Talking Dogs TV “was not translating into significant viewing numbers” and that “viewing numbers were falling every week”.

So what is wrong, why are numbers falling every week?

From GRI statement on its website re annual report 2020 “4,251 samples were analysed by the INAB accredited National Greyhound Laboratory in 2020.  From the samples analysed, 11 adverse analytical findings (0.26%) were returned.”

Potential punters and the general public are not convinced by the claims from GRI regarding adverse analytical findings. The failure by GRI to allow any independent audit of its testing procedures lends weight to the suspicion that the previous failures in testing highlighted by Professor Morris have not been dealt with.

 

Where is the industry today?

  Horse and Greyhound Fund Prizemoney
2007 €14.5million €12.2million
2020 €16.8million €6.1million

 

Despite a 15% increase in Tax Payer funding since 2007, prizemoney paid to greyhound owners has halved.

 

We are entitled to compare our industry with racing in Victoria because of the many similarities.

  Victoria, Australia Ireland
Population (people) 6.6million 6.5million (32 counties)
Governing Body Founded GRV 1958 Bord Na gCon 1958
Number of litters born (Year) 635    (2020) 2,324     (2019)
Prizemoney paid 2020 €29 million €6.1 million
Prizemoney paid per litter €45,669 €2,624
Government Funding 0 €16.8million (2020)

 

While it would be a mistake to pretend that racing in Victoria does not have challenges, it also has vociferous opponents that want the industry banned.

However, the Irish Greyhound industry is in a far more precarious position. We are pursuing a failed model that is producing far too many dogs with no value. The average of 6.5 pup per litter means that an Irish greyhound will win on average about €400 in its lifetime at the current prizemoney.

All our tracks have outside lures which inevitably result in more collisions, injuries, and haphazard racing.

We have reputational problems due to historical attempts to conceal drug use.

We are totally dependent on taxpayer funding and there is a growing clamour to have this stopped.

The argument that this funding is collected in the betting levy does not stand up to scrutiny. The betting levy is 2%, it would need to have 1 billion euros bet on greyhounds to fund the €20million that will be given to the greyhound industry in 2021.

However bad things were when Gerard Dollard was appointed CEO in September 2017, the situation is now much worse. We need a CEO that understands how to produce a betting product in an environment where animal welfare is paramount. He/She must have the courage to implement the changes required and ruthlessly remove transgressors. The task will be made all the more difficult by the interference of gombeen TD’s, many of whom will try to shoehorn one of their cronies into the CEO position.