A REPORT BY LORD DONOUGHUE OF ASHTON FOR THE BRITISH GREYHOUND RACING BOARD AND THE NATIONAL GREYHOUND RACING CLUB
This review of greyhound racing was commissioned in the wake of reports of greyhound welfare issues, notably at Seaham, Co. Durham, which alerted a wider public to some of the welfare problems surrounding the sport during the passage of the Animal Welfare Bill.
Our remit has been to consider the regulation of the sport, in the context of the new ‘duty of care’ obligations of the recent Animal Welfare Act. It rapidly became clear that good welfare is derived from good regulation and good regulation is derived from having the correct governance structures in place. We also recognised that the whole proposition is dependent on robust, adequate and transparent funding.
Therefore the Review became more wide-ranging, and took much longer, than initially expected. We sat for more than 200 hours, received evidence from more from over 60 people from various aspects of the greyhound industry and also considered a huge volume of written material. I am grateful to everyone who contributed and was struck by the genuine passion for the sport, and the greyhounds which take part in it, exhibited by everybody that we heard from.
Under my Chairmanship I was assisted by Patrick Nixon, secretary to the Horserace Betting Levy Board Bookmakers' Committee while my team was completed by Clarissa Baldwin, Chief Executive of the Dogs Trust; Jim Cremin, Greyhound Editor of the Racing Post; and Jim Donnelley, Racing and Sports Betting Director of PA Sport.
I would urge all those interested in the sport to read this resulting Report carefully, in its entirety and avoid any rush to judgement, perhaps by focussing on one or two elements. A broad and considered view is required, that is what we have sought to do. We believe that this Review, with 37 main recommendations, gives greyhound racing as it faces the risk of an increasingly hostile public and legislative climate, the opportunity to demonstrate that it is running an honest and honourable sport in which the welfare of the greyhound enjoys a proper priority.
Principally we believe that the greyhound racing industry should remain self-regulated. This is preferable as it is less bureaucratic and more cost-effective - an important issue within an often marginal business. However, for a number of reasons, the current structures are seriously flawed and we recommend an entirely new single entity to conduct the governance, administration, finance and regulation of greyhound racing, to be called the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB).
The single main Board of the GBGB should be smaller than at present and contain an increased proportion of independent members but, importantly also three promoters and one practitioner (eg a trainer) in order to ensure the stakeholders are fully engaged and involved, but that any proposition would need independent support to succeed.
Appropriate independence of the regulatory arm is essential. Careful checks and balances are included to ensure that the maximum independence, compatible with due accountability to the industry is protected for the new Regulatory Board, to be part of the GBGB, and provides for increased stewarding and a separate stewards' disciplinary committee. This will address the infighting which plagued progress between the NGRC and BGRB.
Suspicion has also affected the relationship, if any existed, between the existing ruling bodies of the licensed sport and independent or ‘flapping’ tracks. We propose that allowing dogs to race under Stud book names will allow greater opportunity for them to join the 'regulated' structure. Independents otherwise face oblivion through the increased costs of meeting new Animal Welfare Act provisions.
Much thought has been given within the Review as to the financing of the sport, and its existing rather complex arrangements. Although it is recognised that the Fund has been a success story, our view is that in due course it should be disbanded and its duties absorbed into the new GBGB. Another key recommendation is that greyhound registration fees should be increased, but that a percentage be returned to the owner on evidence that the greyhound's future upon retirement has been secured. This will give added value to existing greyhounds, making them less easily disposable.
All greyhounds should be registered by the time of ear-marking (12-15 weeks) and then tracked to the time they are responsibly rehomed, with all breeders licensed by the Regulator and subject to veterinary supervision. Research should be commissioned as to whether it is desirable for greyhounds to commence racing later than currently takes place. Statistics of track injuries should be centrally maintained, and research undertaken into initiatives that make the breed sturdier, and the quality of track surfaces. Rehoming must also be given a higher priority.
Veterinarians are seen by the Review as key players in the delivery of welfare provision and the new statutory duty of care that the Animal Welfare Act requires. There are proposals that their independence, authority and training should be increased.
Detailed recommendations are made for transition arrangements towards the new GBGB, and it is believed these will help satisfy both Government and critics of the sport that a genuine tightening up and increased welfare focus is taking place.
We appreciate the hard work and dedication that the existing bodies and individuals put into the sport. We believe many of the existing staff should be employed in the new GBGB, and that it will better harness the enthusiasm of all those who care about greyhound racing, but also offer a much enhanced potential for streamlined, improved decision making and leadership. This should give confidence to those promoters, entrepreneur and practitioner, involved in greyhound racing to invest more in modernising the sport to assure its future as a great modern leisure industry
I commend this to everybody within greyhound racing, and again ask that you all take time to digest and reflect on the proposals. This Review offers a never-to-be-repeated chance for the sport to make significant progress to ensuring its long term survival and prosperity. Our Review's team of five has carefully tried to balance the radical with the conservative, and what has emerged is rooted in our collective common sense. I have been deeply impressed by the caring nature of the vast majority of those engaged within the sport, and the wonderful nature of the greyhound itself.
Lord Donoughue, originally an eminent economics academic, was senior policy adviser to both Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and James Callaghan and subsequently became Minister for Farming and Food (1997-99). As an author, his work includes accounts of his time at No 10 and an autobiography. Aside from Westminster, Lord Donoughue had spells in journalism (at the Economist and as assistant editor at the Times) and also in the City. As a founding member of the Sports Council in the late 1960s, he has a longstanding involvement in sporting governance - recently chairing three major reviews into aspects of horseracing, including terms and conditions for stable staff, the future funding of racing, and the starting price mechanism. Lord Donoughue is also a Trustee of the International League for the Protection of Horses. In 1985 he was created a life peer as Baron Donoughue of Ashton.
Clarissa Baldwin is the Chief Executive of Dogs Trust — a post she has held for 21 years. Prior to this she was Head of Public Relations at the charity from 1974. Amongst other current posts, Clarissa is Chairman of the Welfare Committee for the Pet Plan Charitable Trust, a Trustee of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, SNIP International (UK-based charity promoting neutering stray and feral cats and dogs worldwide) and Chairman of the UK Greyhound Forum. Clarissa was awarded the OBE for Services to Animal Welfare in 2005.
Jim Cremin is the Greyhound Editor of the Racing Post — a daily sporting newspaper. He helped found the publication in 1986 following a previous career in greyhound racecourse management — working at Hove and Wembley greyhound stadiums. Jim was introduced to greyhound racing as a child by his uncle, a greyhound breeder in Ireland, and his first tracks visited included Ballybunion and Hendon (both now long gone).
Patrick Nixon has been Secretary to the Bookmakers’ Committee at the Horserace Betting Levy Board since August 1997, following a 30-year career as an air traffic controller in the Royal Air Force. Patrick worked previously with Lord Donoughue as a member of the Future Funding of Racing Review Group, set up by the Minister for Sport. Amongst other things, this study led to the formation of the British Horseracing Authority, now the governing body of racing in Great Britain.
Jim Donnelley is the Director, Racing and Sport Betting for PA Sport. He has worked in the greyhound and horse racing industry for the past 38 years. Since 2002 Jim has been responsible for all aspects of the Press Association’s horseracing service, the greyhound industry’s national database and all other related sports betting services. Jim is also Company Secretary to the Starting Price Regulatory Commission.