The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) is planning for a return to racing, which could come as early as May 18, according to a new document published this week.
The document lays out a five-phase plan for the return of greyhound action, once the UK government relaxes restrictions. According to the Board, it was the result of a period of consultation across the industry, and was designed to balance health and safety needs with the integrity of the sport and the welfare of the greyhounds.
The GBGB say it could allow racecourses to start preparing for a return, which will be behind closed doors, on May 18. Each phase of the plan is predicted to last two weeks, starting with a series of trial meetings, and followed by a return to normality, incorporating social distancing rules.
Each of the five phases will be subject to strong controls, which will be amended as necessary as the advice from the government evolves. Speaking about the plan, the Managing Director of the GBGC, Mark Bird, said that although there was a pressing need for a return to racing, the health and wellbeing of all participants had to be paramount:
“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.”
According to Bird, the policy offers a way to phase in a return, with the first priority being graded races which cover the majority of the greyhound populations. He added that there would be minimal movement between courses, and strict precautions for monitoring and social distancing.
Sports betting in the UK greyhound racing sector in the UK has seen a boost in online interest in recent years, and there is around £2.5 billion wagered on the sport every year, spread across more than 70,000 races, so returning to normal meetings will be hugely important for the future of the sport.
Many courses have already had experience of staging race meetings behind closed doors as the measure was briefly introduced in March, though the UK government soon after introduced a lock down that forced all greyhound courses to close.