Private and Confidential.
Mr. Tom Hayes T.D.
Minister of State,
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,
Kildare Street,
Dublin 2.
July 21st 2013
RE: Irish Greyhound Industry.
Dear Minister Hayes,
I write to you in my capacity as an “Ordinary member” of Bord na gCon. I was appointed by the late Minister Shane McEntee R.I.P. in December 2011. Prior to my appointment to the Board I bred, owned and trained greyhounds. I served on the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation as a delegate for Limerick and Clare. In short I had a broad experience of the Industry without having the specific details which are available to me now.
On appointment to the Board I accepted that I would have to give a bedding in period to fully absorb and understand the workings of IGB as a Regulatory and Commercial body. I assure you despite my previous experiences dealing with the Irish Greyhound Board I had an open mind when joining the Board. My intentions were to improve the Industry as best I could. Unfortunately, the problems I was aware of prior to my appointment are far more serious than I had realised.
As an Ordinary member of the Board I am appointed by the Minister and am fully responsible to the Minister and the parent Department. I must therefore relay my deep concerns to you in relation to the Greyhound Industry. The Industry as you are aware is governed by statute under the 1958 Greyhound Industry Act and subsequent amendments. This legislation was designed to achieve a regulatory authority for greyhound racing and coursing. Bord na gCon started as a regulatory authority and remains so today. The Horse and Greyhound fund gave the Industry the funding to expand and develop. With this funding the Industry began to morph into a commercially driven entity. The development of “Super stadia” at venues around a country awash with disposable income was the business model created. Attendances rose and the new bars and restaurants flourished while the Tiger roared. Bord na gCon had invested heavily with Government approval in facilities and still did long after the Tiger had died. Despite the recession now being in its fifth year the business model for Bord na gCon remains the same as at the height of the boom. The Board owned tracks lost 1.1million euro last year and will loose similar amounts this year. The emphasis of Bord na gCon was now on development and striving for commercial targets. In doing this Bord na gCon lost its focus on its primary responsibility, Regulation of the Greyhound Industry.
At the present moment Bord na gCon is heavily indebted to a commercial bank. As the debt is not “State guaranteed” the tracks are taken as security. The failure of Bord na gCon to identify and deal with a doomed business model for the last five years has placed the Industry on the cusp of disaster. Confidence in the Industry is shattered. Breeding figures and racing pools are dangerously low. The Regulatory function is completely and utterly failing on a regular basis with one scandal after another. The Board and Executive have not dealt with these issues in a transparent and competent manner leading to massive reputational damage at home and abroad. The Irish Greyhound Industry which is the most unique Greyhound Industry in the World is in danger of being lost. The reasons for the failure of the Industry lies at the door of those who are responsible for it. The Minister, The Department of Agriculture, The Comptroller and Auditor General and The Irish Greyhound Board must take responsibility for the shambles the Industry is now in.
Minister, I canvassed to get my seat on the Irish Greyhound Board and was successful in doing so. I think this highlights a flaw in the recruitment of a State Board because I do not have all the skills or experience to turn a company around that is indebted in excess of 30million euro. In my opinion these deficiencies apply to the other members of this politically appointed Board. I am a member of the Board for twenty months now and in that time the Industry has continued to increase losses and regulatory functions continue to be breached. The Political influence on the Industry ensures people are not appointed on merit. This policy has served Bord na gCon very badly and the commercial and regulatory awareness of the Board in the present and past has led the Industry to its present position. Poor and reckless decisions have been made and there must be accountability for the position the Industry is now in. I hope the Greyhound fraternity will not end up paying the price for the poor management of the Industry.
The Irish Greyhound Industry has a lot a lot of positives. It has a core of highly skilled suppliers of greyhound stock which deserve their Industry to be run fairly and ensure it is viable for them to continue. Irish Greyhound stock is renowned all over the world and Ireland is accepted as the cradle of the best gene pools in the world. This reputation is at risk with the manner in which breeding and racing is regulated at present. We are a sporting and betting nation and the greyhound industry does not enjoy the profile it should as a result of reputational damage and the perception of a corrupt sport. Unfortunately this perception is a reality. The employees of Bord na gCon who are on the front line services work hard in a confusing and often testing environment. Two members of staff, The Internal Auditor and the Head of Compliance and Risk are on extended sick leave and I have serious concerns in relation to how these two employees were treated while working for Bord na gCon. They carried out key investigations on the instructions of the Board and produced reports which identified breaches of integrity and management failures. I would ask you and your officials to investigate the circumstances of these two employees leaving their work as a matter of urgency.
The problems in the Greyhound Industry are not new and are rooted in political interference, lack of accountability and poor management. There have been attempts before and reports have been written but primarily ignored. The appetite has not been present in political circles to tackle the Industry properly. A self regulating industry with political appointments is a recipe for disaster and the Greyhound Industry is testament to this. The Industry response to current problems will be the “Strategic Plan” can put the Industry right. I have real concerns in relation to a plan that has been created by a Board and Executive that are simply not up to the task of turning this Industry around and as a member of the Board I have to accept this. The last “Strategic Plan” (2007-2012) promised much but delivered little. Sporting regulation and integrity can only be engineered by experts in this field. The same applies to commercial growth and business development. We have serious problems and to solve them we need serious people. Other countries have had similar problems to Ireland and have made radical changes to the template of their industries and as a result have moved with the “off site” business model to generate financial sustainability.
Minister, we are running out of time to save the Greyhound Industry from collapse. The culture of the Industry needs to be changed and changed immediately. I would ask that you carry out an in-depth review of the Industry by an external expert group. This review must Identify the exact status of the Industry at present. It must also study the Greyhound Industries world wide to establish what is the best model for the Irish Industry to follow. The Industry can not be changed from within, I am convinced of this. External evaluation is the only way forward. The political nature of the Industry must be removed. Integrity must be restored as at present it is simply a buzz word. The Industry at present is a charade due to failures to implement and failures to identify the requirements for a fair and viable Industry. The corporate governance and compliance duties of Bord na gCon have also failed. The morale of the staff and the confidence of the Industry stakeholders have been lost.
Minister, you are now in control of the future of the Greyhound Industry. This Industry has huge potential if properly harnessed.
Yours faithfully,
Brendan Moore.