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Weblog: At large in the greyhound world

Micawber Principle does not work for us just now

LAST week I found myself deliberately choosing bet365 for my typically daft multiple bet – as I knew they paid to the Fund. It felt a bit like Tote betting used to – you bet with the Tote because it felt right, because the profit went back to racing.

Other online bookies, in general, have yet to sort this out – although Tom Kelly, chairman of the Greyhound Board, is working hard on trying to make progress. Clearly the impasse between horseracing and the betting industry offers him a window of opportunity. Racing turned down a levy deal around the offshore business because it felt there was a better ‘racing right’ deal to be done.

My view has always been that horseracing has never fully appreciated the worth that its statutory levy represents – it feels like gold dust to greyhounds!

Perhaps now the bookmakers might prefer to conclude a deal with greyhound racing, proving commercial arrangements can work around the voluntary Fund. Horseracing seems to operating on the Micawber Principle – that something will turn up. And of course greyhound racing is not going to follow the horses and demand approved sponsorship partnerships. Bet365 are welcome to sponsor any greyhound event they like!

However, the Micawber Principle is also underpinning our attitude to Wimbledon. The hope here is the planning application with either fail at the Merton hurdle, or then be called in by the Mayor of London who will ‘do something’. What Galliards are having is a bet to nothing.

They want to try to get all Nama’s money they have invested/wasted on Wimbledon back in one development hit – hence the unrealistic number of apartments around the ‘enabling’ football ground. The fact there are serious floodplain and transport infrastructure issues, while also being sited next to the largest electricity substation in London, gets conveniently ignored. You would not want to live there, especially on a match day.

Planners are supposed to take these things on board and ignore the blandishments of developers, but of course there is an empathy for football, plus a focus on building as much as they can where they can.
Greyhound racing, while actually ideal for the site, is on the back foot – tracks in London have gradually vanished due to the rising value of the land.

Part of any justification for keeping Wimbledon alive was there had been a betting shop contract helpfully given there, but surprisingly Bags have taken it away next year – and has since claimed it was because they had hoped to see the trainers better rewarded.

Really? That sounds like spinning to me. Bags don’t worry about what the GRA pays its trainers at Belle Vue, Perry Barr or Hall Green or, come to think if it, those at Poole or Swindon either. Everyone knows bookmaker-owned tracks pay far better.

The GRA did increase its trainer and bonus payments significantly at Wimbledon, mainly because it had to, and Clive Feltham, MD of the GRA, told me last week that this, allied to the negative side of Bags – the meetings start earlier, making them less attractive to racegoers – plus a general shortage of dogs, led to Wimbledon actually losing money this year compared to a small profit last year.

At least the other GRA tracks are pulling in good crowds, and the future for Belle Vue and Perry Barr is assured. A planning application by the owners of Hall Green is expected shortly, but greyhound fans will be making their case, similar to that for Wimbledon, around the way this sport genuinely and unusually appeals to the entire family.

Rick Holloway reckons the Derby will end up at Belle Vue. Maybe he’s right, but I’m not so sure. Were Wimbledon to close, and Hills to walk away, the GRA would be left without a sponsor, and would be swapping graded racing that fits its Manchester market for a costly event they would just get a lot of stick over for not doing enough with.

My guess is if we lose Wimbledon, the GBGB may yet be handed the Derby so that it can be put open to offers. That would at least be interesting to see what then turned up.