GTA BLOG 

17th December 2014 - GTA Blog 

The GTA Chair Rick Holloway commented today on Jim Cremin’s article in Racing Post Greyhounds 16th December 2014. He said: 
“Yet again it would seem we are the subject of a divisive article in the Racing Post. It’s time for Martin (White) and John (Mullins) to realise the GTA is now established as a credible voice and we are fully engaged with government who have given us full support for our modernisation agenda. We are putting the case for a formal independent review of the sport from a welfare, governance and commercial perspective. We are also drawing much needed attention to the financial plight of trainers and staff working within the industry. It’s difficult for us to understand why they wouldn’t want to support this?” 
 
Linda Jones GTA Welfare Officer and ex champion Trainer said: 
 
“We spelt out very clearly how we got to this point and we said that in their efforts to shut us out of the industry our detractors have enabled us to engage with government and we find ourselves in a situation that until now we had not considered. In my opinion that begs the question – whose fault is that? We value the people who are taking our concerns seriously and who are prepared to support us in bringing about much needed change in our sport.” 
 
Dave Houfton GTA Secretary said: 
 
“This is yet another instance where the Racing Post could do more to support the sport and those employed within the industry. It seems to me they haven’t grasped that we are now talking with people who take what we have to say seriously and who support the changes we are asking for. What’s to be gained by endlessly focusing on divisions within the sport? It’s no help to struggling trainers if the important debates are happening elsewhere. We’ve moved on and it’s time others did to.” 
 
Charlie Lister OBE said: 
 
“In November I said that in my opinion we can continue to fight amongst ourselves until there is nothing left to fight over or we can back the GTA’s demands for a fairer deal for all. I haven’t changed my opinion.” 
 
Mark Wallis (currently top of the GTA Trainers' Championship Leaderboard) said: 
 
“What Ricky Holloway has told MP's is right”. 

12th December 2014 - On the Right Track for 2015 

Like many in the sport, we have borne reluctant witness over the years, of one report superseded by another, each with little or no action as a consequence. The increasing pile of meaningless reports, each with its own inevitable list of impotent recommendations, culminated this year with the GBGB commissioned Deloitte Report (March 2014). The contents of this latest report is of serious concern to all who love the sport of greyhound racing and yet it too appears to have joined the inevitable, complacent ‘to do’ pile. The report contains yet more damning evidence (if indeed more was needed) of the parlous state of our sport and unsurprisingly it lacks any action or recommendation for change. 
 
With this report in mind and as we look back over the past year, Sunday 27th April 2014 stands out as a significant date in the GTA calendar. It was at the Stakeholders Meeting held in Luton that we were tasked with writing a letter to Mr Tom Kelly and Mr Ralph Topping. The letter signed by the GTA Chair and Charlie Lister OBE conveyed the concerns expressed by those present at the meeting. The letter set in motion an unprecedented and often personal campaign against the GTA Chair and the Committee. The letter remains unanswered. Mr Kelly attempted a ‘back door’ discussion with the GTA and when we quite rightly asked for an appropriate professional meeting he rather surprisingly took to insulting the GTA by calling us “clowns” and then went on to publicly ridicule ex champion trainer and GTA Welfare Officer Linda Jones in the Racing Post. Furthermore, by ignoring the letter he managed to deliver a substantial and totally undeserved rebuke to the owners and trainers who attended the Luton meeting, given the letter was sent at their request and on their behalf. 
 
Running concurrently in May 2014 Mr Maurice Watkins CBE was gifted almost a full page in the same national newspaper to tell everyone how he and the GBGB could not work with our democratically elected Chair. It shouldn’t have escaped people’s notice that Mr Watkins is a very accomplished professional, who is clearly a highly skilled negotiator, capable of successfully defending extremely difficult and complex legal cases. His words would have carried greater gravitas if the GBGB’s own record on engaging with stakeholders was not abjectly flawed. As Mr Watkins exits the GBGB he (along with others) must surely question if he has left our sport in a better state than he found it? 
 
The Committee released a Statement of Case during May, the purpose of which was to support our argument for change. It was a means of expressing the concerns we have at the lack of care being shown to the sport by those taking the most from it. Significantly, but unsurprisingly, the GTA has received no acknowledgement of this document from those in control of the industry. 
 
The Racing Post continued a negative and often very personal campaign against the GTA, the Chair and Committee in the months that followed. During one of the Racing Post’s more imaginative moments the GTA was accused of “playing the welfare card” as if the care and concern for the retired greyhound was not our natural preserve? 
 
A number of respected people from within the industry came forward in the ensuing months and offered to act as independent mediators, between the GTA and the GBGB. Most notable amongst these, Bob Betts, life president of the Greyhound Writers’ Association and former greyhound editor of the Sporting Life. He contacted us in August with an offer of assistance and we gladly accepted. We were sorry to learn that he too was inevitably confronted with a closed door. Bob summed up the situation expertly in the Racing Post: “I’m annoyed by the Board’s response to this genuine behind-closed-doors offer and feel snubbed and angry. Now what happens? Even if you don’t like someone you still have to talk to them to get anywhere.” 
 
Equally surprising was the reaction to Ricky Holloway’s appearance on the Panorama programme. Rick made no secret of why he did so when he said “because no-one was speaking up for greyhound racing, I merely said it as it is.” He was quoted in the programme as saying “Deloitte showed this was an industry from which the bookmakers make annual profits of £237 million yet my members are losing a net £3 million.” The GBGB notably refused to appear on the programme and this was universally condemned. Bruce Millington Editor Racing Post wrote in his column “For the sport’s governing body not to comment on camera on what came across as such serious charges was absolutely inexcusable.” The Racing Post Greyhound section for reasons best known to them chose to use the programme to yet again attack the GTA and the Chair in particular. 
 
The highly respected Mr Paschal Taggart summed up his views most eloquently on RPGTV when he said “The reason the Panorama programme was centred on Wimbledon is because it’s a dump. It’s one of the greatest dumps in the world. The prize money is dreadful, so therefore a Panorama programme coming from there is going to be very, very, justified.” He went on to say “For the life of me I cannot believe why a Board who knew this was coming up didn’t participate. I just cannot believe that. That is bad“. Charlie Lister OBE came out in support of us and wrote an excellent article and although cut, it was at least published in the Racing Post. “For those trainers calling for Ricky's head, I invite them to read the GTA's Statement of Case and the DEFRA/DCMS Government report both on the GTA website. In my time I have seen people knock on the door of those in charge of the sport and, like Ricky, they found the door locked. What I like about Ricky is he hasn’t gone away like the others and he’s still here knocking on the door. For all his so called faults Ricky Holloway has lifted the lid on the problems within the sport and it doesn’t matter now how hard people try to close it the genie is out of the bottle. “ 
 
Despite the GBGB’s refusal to engage with us in meaningful dialogue we have by no means been idle and despite difficult financial restrictions* we have undertaken a robust modernisation of the association. Having followed all necessary procedures the GTA incorporated as a company in September 2014. We have adopted formal company objectives ‘to promote the interests of Licensed Greyhound Trainers and fostering and promoting the sport of Greyhound Racing and the good welfare of racing and retired greyhounds on a ‘Not for Profit’ basis.’ In addition we have undertaken the task of collating a database of licensed trainers within the UK. Any UK licensed trainer who has not provided us with their contact details we ask to get in touch with us. We have also established a new website GTA 
 
At the written request of Lord de Mauley the GTA was invited to London in October to meet civil servants from the Government Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) - charged with greyhound welfare responsibility. The GTA also met, at the request of DEFRA, with Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS). A most productive meeting occurred and here is the link to the GTA DEFRA/DCMS Government report we submitted. We were subsequently advised by DEFRA to formally engage with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) and our Chair was invited to speak at the House of Commons on 2nd December 2014. The fact that he did and what he had to say was very warmly received and of great encouragement to us all. He made the case for a formal independent review of the sport from a welfare, governance and commercial perspective. He also drew the attention of those present to the financial plight of trainers and staff working within the industry.  
 
The RSPCA were represented at the House of Commons and subsequently the GTA has received the following formal support – verbatim: 
“The RSPCA shares your concerns about the greyhound industry and we can confirm that we fully support your efforts to improve the industry and specifically the measures which you have highlighted: 
i) the publication of injury statistics to drive safety improvements; 
ii) an amendment and overhaul of the retirement form at the end of a dog's racing career to add safeguards around robust and responsible rehoming; 
iii) a formal independent review of the sport from a welfare, governance and commercial perspective.” 
 
This brings us back full circle to the Stakeholder Meeting in April of this year and the difficult path we have travelled. The journey has been fraught, hostile and often littered with personal attacks. It has also been coupled with a determined attempt by those running the sport to stifle our voice. 
However, as we look back over the past eight months, together as a committee, we are able to view this journey as not only arduous but uniquely positive. In their efforts to shut us out of the industry our detractors have enabled us to engage with government and we find ourselves in a situation, that until now, we had not considered. We value the people who are taking our concerns seriously and who are prepared to support us in bringing about the much needed change in our sport. We look forward to focusing our time and attention on working productively together in the months and years to come. Next year promises to be an exciting and busy time for us and we look forward to 2015 with renewed energy and anticipation. 
 
We wish all our many friends and supporters up and down the country a “Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!” 
 
*If you would like to donate to assist us with our work please click on this link Donate 

26th November 2014 - What Next for the GTA Chair and Committee? 

On 25th November 2014 whilst in London defending a fellow trainer at the GBGB offices, the kennels of the GTA Chair Rick Holloway were visited by Mr Jim Snowden Investigating Officer with the GBGB. Mr Snowden was acting on a “tip off” that the GTA Chair was employing “unlicensed staff” in his kennels. The visit was unannounced and the GTA Chair was not informed of the action being taken until later that day. 
 
The “tip off” proved to be unfounded. 
 
Now is probably a good time for us to reflect upon the wise words of Charlie Lister written just over two short weeks ago; 
 
“I have to hand it to Ricky and the GTA Committee it takes a lot of guts to stand in the firing line day after day and face the criticism aimed at them (sometimes very personal) but it is very clear to me that people who care about this great sport and its future are starting to sit up and listen.” 
 
Charlie Lister OBE (9th November 2014)