I have been a life-long lover of sports, a spectator of many and a modest participant in several. The governance and regulation of sport has also been a particular interest of mine since I was a member of the original Sports Council in the 1960s. I have subsequently followed that interest when serving, before undertaking this Review, on four Enquiries into various aspects of association football and horse racing. But I must confess that prior to this present exercise I had not closely followed greyhound racing - and previously last attended a greyhound meeting at a small Northamptonshire track shortly after the Second World War, acting as a youthful assistant to a dubious bookmaker.
This was a failing on my part which I now deeply regret. Greyhound racing is a wonderful sport which gives huge pleasure to owners, trainers, spectators, punters and dogs alike. Sadly, it has for some decades been in decline as a spectator sport - though not as a betting medium. However, it still ranks as Britain's third largest spectator sport and this year will generate some £2.5 billions of off-course betting turnover. Greyhound racing is of considerable sporting and social consequence and deserves to thrive. The reforms proposed in this Review are discussed with that ultimate objective of renewal and future prosperity in mind.
The main remit in the terms of reference of this Review focuses on the regulation of greyhound racing. That remained our central concern throughout our considerations. However, it soon became evident that it was not possible to analyse regulation of the sport without reflecting on the complex web of inter-related functions which influence the working and efficiency of greyhound regulation: especially governance, finance, integrity and animal welfare. The latter issue of welfare is, of course, a major feature in most discussion, public and private, of British greyhound racing. Parliament, the government, the media and the general public are not convinced that the priorities of dog welfare are yet fully met by the industry as presently conducted.
Welfare has inevitably been a major concern of our discussions, especially in the context of the recent Animal Welfare legislation. We give due prominence to it in our Report and suggest a number of ways in which greyhound welfare could be improved. It should, however, be stressed that our findings are not solely, nor primarily about welfare. This Review concerns greyhound regulation and all the key issues, including welfare, which relate to regulation.
Our Review is strongly evidence-based. We received written and verbal evidence from all sides of the industry. Greyhound racing proved more complex (and this work therefore more time-consuming) than I had anticipated, though it was commensurately more fascinating. In total, some 60 witnesses contributed to our considerations, as listed at the end of this Report, and I wish to thank them all for so doing. Rarely did they agree with one another on any aspect of the sport, but they provided us with strongly presented arguments for the positions we have chosen to take and the recommendations which we have made.
The Review proposes a list of key recommendations for change in the conduct of greyhound racing. At their heart is our suggestion for a new unified governing and regulatory authority: the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). It would contain a strong independent presence with no sectional interest having a majority control. Within the GBGB would be incorporated the functions and responsibilities of the present British Greyhound Racing Board and the National Greyhound Racing Club. This proposed integration should enable the new Regulator to have the maximum regulatory independence compatible with the Regulator's necessary accountability to the industry which finances it and which it serves. Such a carefully balanced governing and regulatory body will, hopefully, be able to function constructively in the interests of the whole sport and without the mutual hostilities and recriminations which have hitherto sadly characterised and often damaged the governance and regulation of British greyhound racing.
The Review's conclusions are closely inter-related. Its recommendations should not be 'cherry-picked', with particular interests choosing those which suit them and seeking to reject the rest. If that is done, then the closely-argued fabric will fall apart and everyone will be the loser.
I recognise that not everything we say and recommend will be popular with everybody involved in the industry. Our recommendations are in some areas radical. Inevitably they will touch upon the sectional interests and might change the traditional habits of some stakeholder parties. I do not apologise for that. Our concern is to modernise this great British sport so that it can compete more successfully in the wider leisure industry and so enjoy a more prosperous and welfare-friendly future. Each sectional interest will gain more than it loses from adopting these proposed reforms. Certainly all will collectively benefit if the new regime which we propose helps to produce in the future a more prosperous industry. Greyhound racing as a whole is bigger than any of the particular sectional interests within it, important though each of them undoubtedly is.
Finally, one of the many pleasures which I have derived from conducting this Review has been working with such a friendly and dedicated team: my Assistant, Patrick Nixon; Clarissa Baldwin, the Chief Executive of the welfare charity Dogs Trust; Jim Cremin, Greyhound Editor of the Racing Post; and Jim Donnelley, Director of Racing and Sports Betting at the Press Association. We held 43 meetings, most for half days, some for full days, and I wish to thank them for their support and patience over this long journey together. Each of them knows far more about greyhound racing and the betting industry associated with it than I can ever aspire to learn. Without their collective knowledge, experience and judgment, this Report would not have been written and certainly would not have such virtues as it may contain.
27th November 2007