Weblog: Our chief correspondent on the topical issues
Wise man needed for urgent banging of heads
WEDNESDAY sees two different meetings taking place which will be hugely significant to the immediate future of the sport. First there is a GBGB board meeting in London and then the Greyhound Trainers’ Association holds an extraordinary general meeting at Coventry.
Any hopes that the election of Ricky Holloway as GTA chair would smooth the path towards improved dialogue between those he represents and the decision makers within greyhound racing have been dashed – some strong and perhaps ill-advised sentiments expressed on Racing Post Greyhound TV at the start of this month probably saw to that.
There appears something of a siege mentality at the moment with all becoming more and more entrenched in their positions. It really needs mediation but, unlike earlier in the year when Fund chairman Tom Kelly stepped in to listen to the trainers’ grievances following the threat to boycott the Trainers’ Championship meeting, there does not seem an inclination to do so now.
Initially, the GTA meeting was to focus on what recommendations should be made in terms of the 2013 budget, but the vibes now suggest that there is a movement towards threatening militant action over what is perceived as the GBGB blocking Holloway representing his members.
I would say there is fault on both sides – and how sad that we should be talking sides – but Holloway does need to realise that people he continually criticises, whether with any justification or not, are not likely to be minded to make things easy for him.
Winning the GTA election was not akin to Holloway getting the keys to the safe at Fort Knox, more a map showing where the place is. There is a sense that he wants everything yesterday and some of the claims he has made have been fanciful and, so far, unable to be substantiated.
As much as anything, Holloway seems fixated by GBGB practitioner representative John Haynes to the extent it could be affecting his judgement. Haynes lacks PR skills and is never going to be a popular figure, but the mud thrown in his direction recently is only likely to strengthen his, and his supporters, resolve not to let the ‘mob’ win out.
A month ago, I thought Haynes’ days in his position were probably numbered as he had clearly lost the confidence of a sizeable percentage of those whose interests he is there to represent. The word practitioner may cover breeders, owners and trainers, but trainers are by far the most urgently requiring assistance of those and to them Haynes is a busted flush.
It is said that the GBGB is ignoring Holloway’s requests to join various committees, but these things do not happen overnight, or by right. The very fact that the GTA is meeting Wednesday to discuss a prize money budget submission shows that it is being embraced as part of the GBGB democratic process – and surely prize money is the budget's most important item so far as the trainers are concerned?
Someone, somewhere has got to bang heads together, and I mean those of the promoters as well. Dialogue equals progress, whereas confrontation will only result in further misery on all sides. Any threat to withdraw labour should be a last resort, not a first one.
Mind you, when news breaks of the hefty fines handed out by the GBGB's disciplinary committee on Tuesday - trainers Dean Childs, Richard Rees and Ireland's Sharon Hurley were all hit for four figures over positive samples - that will probably be seen as some great Machiavellian plot as well!
All of which is a sad way to start after what has been a fantastic week or ten days on the track. The victory of Bubbly Phoenix in the Ladbrokes East Anglian Derby was thoroughly deserved and a tremendous advertisement for the possibilities that syndication offers.
Just a thought here, by the way, if there is a movement towards setting up a national owners’ association to replace the rather moribund Federation of British Greyhound Owners’ Associations as some have suggested, what about Champagne Club chairman Steve Fluin to head it? He is a can-do operator, but with political nous as well.
Just before Bubbly Phoenix landed the Yarmouth title, Ballymac Eske was continuing his one-dog assault on the Coral Olympic title at Hove and few will care to oppose him in this Thursday’s final.
That is live on Racing Post Greyhound TV with the heats of the Primus Telecom Derby at Henlow forming a tremendous double-header on the channel. Then just 24 hours later, RPGTV has the final of the Romford Puppy Cup which Mark Wallis will be hoping to win with Glanmire Lad to give him a bit of breathing space over the charging Paul Young in the Trainer of the Year standings, although Young himself has a finalist in the shape of Ballymac Josh.
RPGTV is doing an outside broadcast from the track so, if you are there for what is a tremendous meeting, don’t be surprised to see Jonathan Hobbs thrusting a microphone in your direction.
You can follow me on