The Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) today released an independent report undertaken by Indecon Economic Consultants, which reviewed the future needs of its 16 licensed stadia and made recommendations regarding the industry’s footprint into the future.

The recommendations of the report have been accepted by the Board of the IGB.

A fully independent, systematic review into the sustainability of individual stadia and the wider industry footprint formed a key element of the IGB’s Strategic Plan 2018-2022.

The brief for the study included the assessment of infrastructure and services available at all 16 licensed greyhound stadia in Ireland; an assessment of financial sustainability at each track; analysis of population catchments and motorway access; and detailed recommendations regarding individual stadia.

The report has recommended a restructuring of the footprint of the greyhound sector; ongoing cost efficiency measures; targeted investment in animal welfare, marketing & infrastructure; and the ceasing of funding for four stadia – Enniscorthy, Lifford, Longford and Youghal.

Enniscorthy’s wide galloping track has produced many future stars in the South East. Lifford’s passionate greyhound community have had a long association and commitment to racing in the North West.

Longford has had a strong greyhound racing tradition for generations, with the track being a signature ‘schooling’ track for young greyhounds. Youghal has produced many high quality owners, trainers and greyhounds and most recently has provided quality SIS racing to a worldwide audience.

The four tracks concerned have each contributed significantly to the Irish greyhound industry over a long number of years. Each track has been in operation for over half a century, with each one having a unique history, culture and tradition. The IGB very much regrets the decision to cease funding at these stadia and its impact on staff, owners and the wider greyhound community but is keenly aware of the challenges that Indecon Economic Consultants have identified for the industry.

The IGB has already taken steps to address these challenges, including:

- The implementation of the Greyhound Racing Act 2019, signed into law by the President in May of this year. The Act includes the welfare of greyhounds as one of the statutory functions of the IGB for the first time. It also provides the board with powers to make regulations relating to integrity, anti-doping, administration and a full greyhound traceability system. Tenders have recently been sought by the IGB for the provision of a traceability system.

- The IGB’s overall spend on welfare and regulation in 2020 is estimated at €3.4m, including  expenditure on veterinary services at tracks, operation of the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust and the IGB’s welfare and regulatory teams.

The IGB continues to make significant progress in the areas of welfare and regulation under its Strategic Plan 2018-2022 through various care and welfare initiatives, including:

-          From June 2019, the IGB extended and increased support under its scheme for foster care of greyhounds to identify new foster homes within Ireland for greyhounds.

-          From July 2019, the IGB established the confidential, recorded Greyhound Care Line (061 448080), available 24/7 to members of the public to report greyhound welfare concerns. This has resulted in more than 30 individual investigations carried out by the IGB’s welfare department to date.

-          The IGB is progressing the provision of Greyhound Care Centres, intended to help the transition of racing greyhounds from the track to retirement. A tender evaluation process on 16 separate submissions is nearing completion.

-          From September 2019, the IGB established a separate Care Fund dedicated to funding a variety of initiatives for the care and welfare of the greyhound, accrued from 10% of all admissions and restaurant packages, 5% of net Tote income and 50% of existing sponsorship contributions. The IGB is targeting the sum of €1 million to be raised for the Greyhound Care Fund in its first year of operation.

- The IGB continues to strive to continuously improve cost efficiency measures, eliminating non-value adding costs and maximising income potential.

CEO of the Irish Greyhound Board, Gerard Dollard, commented: “This review, which forms part of the IGB’s five year strategic plan, will progress the industry’s footprint for the future. The greyhound industry, like many other industries, has to change and adapt to maintain viability for future generations. The report that has been published today, and which has been accepted by the Board of the IGB gives a road map to underpin a viable long term sustainable industry for people to participate in and enjoy. I acknowledge that the report will make difficult reading for the passionate greyhound community, particularly those who are employed in, race greyhounds or attend greyhound racing in any of the stadia where the cessation of funding is recommended. It is important that members of the public, both inside and outside of the industry, have a chance to assess the outcome of the independent study and express their views before the recommendations are implemented.”

The IGB is inviting submissions regarding the report’s recommendations and their implementation up to January 10th, 2020.

The report can be viewed in full at this link.