Phased return for UK greyhounds

The GBGB sees racing return in five stages.
The GBGB sees racing return in five stages.

The Greyhound Board of Great Britain is preparing for a phased return to racing in the UK potentially as soon as May 18.

UK.-  The Greyhound Board of Great Britain has published an operational policy document that sets out a five-phase approach to returning to greyhound racing as soon as government restrictions are relaxed.

The body said the policy was the result of consultation across the industry to balance health and safety requirements with greyhound welfare and the sport’s integrity.

The GBGB said the policy would serve to allow racecourses to begin preparations to return to racing behind closed doors, potentially as soon as May 18.

The policy sets out five phases, which will each last at least two weeks, starting with trial meetings behind closed doors potentially as soon as government restrictions allow, progressing towards a complete return to normality subject to government guidance on social distancing.

The five stages in full are: 

Phase 1: trial meetings only behind closed doors.
Phase 2: resumption of racing behind closed doors with a maximum of ten races and at least 30 minutes between each.
Phase 3: racing behind closed doors with a maximum of twelve races 5 minutes apart.
Phase 4: racing behind closed doors with no limit on the number of races but a minimum 20-minutes gap between each.
Phase 5: Return to normal racing subject to government guidance on social distancing and public gatherings.

Each phase will be subject to strict controls set out in the policy, which will be updated as necessary in line with any changes to the government’s advice.

GBGB Managing Director, Mark Bird, said: “As the sport’s regulator, we continue to be led by what is in the best interests of the greyhounds at the heart of our sport. We all recognise that a rapid return to some form of racing is the right course of action – not only because of the financial impact on trainers and owners but because of the physiological needs of greyhounds as canine athletes. However, we have been vocal throughout that it would be irresponsible to seek to resume racing without taking the time to prepare fully and adopt all the appropriate health and safety protocols.

“This Operational Policy, therefore, presents an effective means for phasing in a return to greyhound racing – prioritising in the first instance graded races to support the vast majority of greyhounds and with the minimum amount of movement between racecourses. We have incorporated strict controls for monitoring and validating the hygiene and social distancing measures in place so that, at each stage, we can be sure of their success. We are confident that the process we are proposing gives us the best chance of progressing quickly and safely through the phases to an eventual resumption of normal racing activity, albeit behind closed doors.”

Sports betting on UK greyhound racing in the UK has seen a revival online in recent years, with around £2.5billion staked annually in over 70,000 races.

Racecourses already gained experience of holding racing behind closed doors when the measure was introduced in March before the government-ordered lockdown forced racing to be halted completely.

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