Greyhound racing has emphasised its plan to be ‘the first to return’ to racing behind closed doors after the current restrictions placed on sporting events are relaxed.
Through its industry-led working group, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) has been working towards restarting the sport in ‘a responsible but efficient manner’.
GBGB Managing Director Mark Bird said: “We were quite literally the last show in town for UK sport whilst we raced behind closed doors, and it is our intention to be the first to return to that position.
“From conversations that I have had with DCMS and key politicians, they acknowledge that we took our responsibilities seriously whilst racing behind closed doors, but we know that there is still room to improve, based not least on any updated government advice.”
The working group has been considering social distancing measures that can be rolled out across the racetracks, whilst also ensuring that the sport maintains both integrity and welfare needs.
Bird continued: “We have been looking at all preventive measures against contact between racing staff and trainers, as well as enhanced hygiene controls, in line with other industries’ best practice guidelines.
“We have always been clear that returning to racing as soon as it is safe to do so is in the best interest of our greyhounds and their ongoing care. So, as well as these safeguards for staff and trainers and our wider communities, our plans are very much focused on the welfare, health and fitness of the dogs.
“A return to greyhound racing isn’t as simple as flicking a switch. Greyhounds – like any human athlete – will need to get back into training and racing safely following this pause. The working group is discussing how that can be best be facilitated and, where appropriate, we will look at certain dispensations. There is some real creativity in what the group is looking at, added into some very strict controls on social distancing.”
The new operational plans are hoped to be submitted by GBGB to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) early next week, with an emphasis placed upon quality consideration rather than speed.
Bird concluded: “The reality will be that racing behind closed doors will most likely only provide a betting product to online customers in the short term as LBO’s will likely remain closed, but the imperative here is to start racing again, as that will at least allow incomes to start flowing again to both tracks and trainers.
“It is important to strike a balance between government efforts to control the virus versus a sound, responsible plan for greyhound racing’s return once the green shoots of normality start to show.”