PART II: Present Governance and Regulation of British Greyhound Racing

Chapter 4

THE NATIONAL GREYHOUND RACING CLUB AND REGULATION

Role and Responsibilities

Historically, the senior body in UK greyhound racing is the National Greyhound Racing Club ( NGRC), which has supervised and regulated the sport from its national launch some 80 years ago in a role not dissimilar to the original role of the Jockey Club in horse racing.

The NGRC is a non-profit making regulatory body operating from separate premises. Its main responsibilities are:

  • Custodian of the Rules of Racing, formulating and amending Rules in conjunction with others representing the industry on the BGRB.
  • Acting as the judicial body for the conduct and discipline of licensed greyhound racing in the UK while implementing the Rules of Racing.
  • Through the above to secure the integrity of greyhound racing.
  • Monitoring and managing the Registry, a database of all racing greyhounds , greyhound owners, trainers and licensed staff and which records the changes of ownership of greyhounds.
  • To license, inspect, and monitor standards of all licensed racecourses, trainers, owners, kennels, staff and officials, through its stipendiary stewards, other stewards and through its Security Department and security database.
  • To collect fees relating to such licensing.
  • Together with the BGRB and through its regulation, it secures welfare standards in the greyhound industry.
  • To conduct the financial and human resource operations required by the above responsibilities.

Structure and Funding

The Club is headed by seven Stewards under the Senior Steward, Edward Bentall, and the Chief Executive, Alistair McLean. Supporting them are a dozen managers who cover registration, licensing, security, finance and administration. In the field are seven regional Stipendiary Stewards backed up by stewards executing drug sampling. It appears to be a well run small ship.

The NGRC's funding streams and its budgetary process are complex and have been described to this Review as 'Byzantine'. Out of a total income of around £3 million, the largest item, £1.6 million, or 51%, is derived from transmission licence fees paid by those tracks in respect of such of their racing as is televised either on Sky TV or into betting shops under their BAGS contracts. Three other fee categories - for greyhound registration, for trainer /staff licences and for track licences - provide nearly £400,000. Just over a million pounds comes from the bookmaker-funded BGRF, mainly for integrity, drug testing and research.

Hence around 85% of the regulator's income comes either directly from the betting industry through the voluntary levy to the Fund; or indirectly via the transmission licence fees, almost all of the income from which arises from BAGS racing and is thus paid for by tracks on BAGS contracts.

Furthermore, as mentioned in the above section on the Fund, the Club has no direct and representative access to this Fund, the source of 34% of its income. It has to approach the Fund through the BGRB, which is an unhelpful arrangement likely to provoke tension. The Board also provides half the committee which produces the Club's budget. Equally odd is that the Club in turn provides over £600,000 per annum from its limited resources towards the administrative costs of the BGRB.

The regulation of the sport would clearly benefit if these curious funding arrangements were rationalised - as is suggested below in chapter 10. It is also the view of this Review that the Club's total funding of around £3 million is scarcely generous given the size of the sport, the ever-expanding number of fixtures and races, and the growing pressure to regulate its large territory of integrity to ever higher standards of efficiency.

Its commendably improved computer facilities will clearly need further investment. Above all it needs more stewards and staff in the field. It is essential that the regulatory function of the new unitary body recommended below, should be provided with the funds it will need in order to execute its many tasks satisfactorily.

The cost of running the Club's central organisation, at around £1.5 million, is certainly not extravagant, though of course there might be savings were the regulator to share office space within a single ruling body. However, it is not easy to secure support for more funding for the regulatory arm when the Club is not viewed as sufficiently transparent and accountable by those on the BGRB who influence its budgetary process.

The Relationship with the BGRB

Over time, and especially since the BGRB separated from the NGRC in 1994 and the Board began to receive significant bookmaker funding, the Club has reluctantly conceded territory to the commercial powers on the BGRB, on whom it depended for parts of its finance. Not surprisingly, the Club resented this loss of prestige and authority. It clung desperately to its claims for regulatory independence and resisted pressure to submit to more accountability to the Board. It identified (understandably but not always correctly) greater accountability with loss of independent authority, just as it came to identify locational separation with independence.

To the Club, the Board was using its financial clout to elevate commercial priorities above the needs of regulation. The Club feels that it operates under unnecessarily stringent constraints, both on its finances and on its capacity to initiate rule changes to improve regulation - which it claims are often resisted by the BGRB for commercial reasons. There is some truth in the Club's complaints - just as there is truth in the Board's complaints that the Club lacks transparency and accountability and that its proposed rule changes too often lack sufficient advance warning or practicality of implementation. One general problem is that each side seems to be more aware of the other's failings than of each's great contribution to greyhound racing. But the failings are there.

Actually, to be fair to them, both bodies have modernised significantly in very recent years. The Board, under its independent chairman, has introduced the reforms described above which reduced the presence of the promoters in its composition, and especially on some of its key committees, so that the familiar mantra of 'promoter control' is no longer strictly numerically accurate. The Club has shown itself more open and pro-active, especially in the welfare field, under its new regime. But the working relations between the two ruling bodies, though improved, remain unsatisfactory. Too often the contacts between them have been conducted through lawyers.

One basic problem hitherto has been that the lines of authority and responsibility between the Club, once the sole ruling body, and the newer Board, have never been satisfactorily delineated (as they were for Irish greyhound racing in the 1958 Greyhound Racing Act which sets out the distinct roles of the Greyhound Board and the Irish Coursing Club.). At root is the curious fact that the Board has never been officially designated and universally accepted (especially by the Club) as the recognised governing body of the sport. Equally, although the Club is clearly and indisputably the current regulatory body, it and the Board are often in dispute over who ultimately controls certain regulatory territory and whether some aspects - such as welfare - are actually primarily of regulatory or governance concern (This Review concludes that Welfare is of concern to each of them, as is reflected in our proposals below).

Delineation of Roles

The Club in evidence defined its own role and delineated itself from the role of others in terms of what it does not do - mainly the marketing , promotion, political lobbying and all commercial aspects of the sport, which it leaves to the Board. The Club assumes that all but those commercial and political roles are for itself, but that leaves several grey areas. The Club accuses the Board of seeking to intrude into the boundaries of what it sees as its own independent regulatory authority. The result has been repeated territorial squabbles, sometimes petty, which have blighted relations between the two sides - though recent changes of personnel have lately produced more adult and sometimes more cooperative behaviour.

These disputes have been made more difficult to resolve because the boundaries between regulation and governance have not been drawn clearly and comprehensively and with the acceptance and recognition of each side. It is not for this Review to sit in judgement on who is right or wrong in particular disputes brought to our attention in evidence. But it is imperative that the roles of the governing and the regulatory functions be defined, accepted and respected by the whole industry.

Agreement on a clear delineation of roles - and on where (as with welfare) it is essential to share responsibilities - will not be easy to achieve politically since there are strikingly different views within the industry on what should actually constitute regulation and how independently it should be conducted.

Some leading promoters and trainers (who together constitute most of the 'regulated' in greyhound racing) seek in their evidence a diminished or a minimal role for regulation, suggesting it should be confined to a limited judicial function conducted by half a dozen stewards and a couple of clerks.

This Review takes a wider view of regulation. Broadly, the industry's future self-regulator should be responsible for the whole integrity of the sport and should share with the industry, through the Board, responsibility for welfare. The Club has at times resisted the latter. But clearly various important aspects of welfare - such as relevant rule making, the provision of injury statistics, best practices in track maintenance, kennel and transportation conditions, the care of post-racing dogs, the propagation of better welfare policies, and the provision of financial budgets for all the above - require the involvement, input and support of various industry stakeholders, including especially the track promoters. In all of these, cooperation between the governing and regulatory functions is essential. The regulator should also maintain information on licensing, registration, identification, tracing and re-homing of greyhounds. That information should be made available to relevant stakeholders in the industry, while ensuring it is not passed to those who may misuse it for political or other reasons hostile to the welfare of the sport.

In executing the above functions the regulator should maintain a clear distinction between certain aspects of its role - for instance between what it does in (1) formulating the Rules, in (2) policing and enforcing those rules and (3) in its judicial role both in determination of guilt or innocence and the imposition of penalties for proven breaches of rules. The Society of Greyhound Veterinarians and others in evidence allege that the current Club has often conflated these roles, acting as lawmaker, policeman, judge, juror and executioner ‘all at the same time’. In future, whoever conducts regulation must have a transparent distinction between these roles. Certainly the judicial function (which some promoters and trainers argue should be the regulator's only role) must be separate from policing and indeed act independently from the Club itself or its replacement. Apart from these regulatory functions, there is no reason why the regulatory arm of greyhound racing should be involved, as inexplicably at present, with the collection and distribution of any revenues

Conclusion

Past history is not helpful in the task of delineating the role of regulation in British greyhound racing. There are too many inherited hostilities between the Club on one side and the BGRB and its participant stakeholders on the other. This Review later suggests a new governing and regulatory structure which hopefully will help to bury past tensions and provide a context in which the regulatory and governing roles can more consensually be defined and in which their institutional arms can live more constructively and trustingly together.