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File photo of racing at Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium. Alamy Stock Photo
Public Accounts Committee

Irish greyhound racing industry is closer to a breeding industry, PAC hears

Greyhound Racing Ireland spoke at the Public Accounts Committee today as its financial statements were examined.

GREYHOUND RACING IN Ireland is “not about racing at all” and is more like a breeding industry, TD Neasa Hourigan has said.

Hourigan was questioning representatives from Greyhound Racing Ireland at a meeting of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee on the back of a report which said that 85% of racing greyhounds in the UK are bred in Ireland.

The organisation was before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee this morning to examine its financial statements.

Asking questions about the number of greyhounds bred in Ireland, Hourigan said a report from last year said that there were 15,600 greyhounds born in Ireland in 2019, “when the year previous is 12,156. And the year after is 10,594. That seems anomalous.”

When the representatives could not give concise answers to Hourigan’s questions, she said: “Based on your report, the numbers in relation to pups and the dog pool and exports – there’s double counting, it doesn’t really add up.

“It seems to me that this industry is not about racing at all. It’s about breeding, because 85% of the dogs in the UK are from Ireland. And in fact, Irish greyhound racing is kind of a peripheral industry to the breeding industry, which is going directly to the United Kingdom, and really is propping up the gambling industry there.

“I don’t know if they need 19 million [euro] Irish taxpayers money to prop up their gambling.”

Its head of regulation Patrick Herbert said that “we’re always looking at areas to try and improve standards in this country, whether its in relation to how greyhounds are kept, in relation to breeding standards, racing standards, welfare initiatives.”

When asked how many greyhound pups are typically expected to progress to a trial, Herbert said: “As part of the rearing process, there would be, I suppose, some level of accidental damage due to rearing accidents.”

Hourigan inquired: “Like dogs dying on a farm?”

“It happens and we need to recognise it,” Herbert responded.

Financial statement

In his opening remarks, Interim CEO of Greyhound Racing Ireland John Tuohey set out the financial statements for the year that ended on 31 December, 2021.

He described 2021 as a “positive year from the greyhound racing perspective as a full racing calendar was completed”.

This consisted of 1,384 race meetings, compared with 1,085 in 2020.

The meetings comprised of 15,533 individual races last year, in comparison with 11,651 in 2020.

91,778 greyhounds were entered into these races and more than 158,000 people attended the races.

However, Greyhound Racing Ireland said the pandemic restrictions curtailed attendances.

The organisation reported an operating surplus before interest, depreciation and taxation of €3.8 million, an increase on the €2.2 million surplus in 202.

Total turnover for the year was €7 million, with €1.7 million being received in international co-mingling income.

Meanwhile, the sale of media rights from race meetings generated €1.9 million last year.

Total prize money paid also increased to €8.1 million last year, up from €6 million in 2020.

Tuohey also described the care and welfare of greyhounds at “the main priority of the Board” and expenditure in 2021 totalled €3.3m, up from €3m in 2020.

Tuohey added that “significant improvement has been achieved in addressing the working capital deficit”.

Greyhound Racing Ireland moved from having a negative €1.4m at the end of 2020, to a positive €1.4m at the end of last year.

With reporting by Emer Moreau

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