James McCreadie: "I feel the time's right to move on and explore new opportunities"
GBGB’s press officer McCreadie to move on
JAMES McCREADIE, GBGB press officer virtually since the Board's inception on New Year's Day 2009, is to leave the role at the end of this month.
McCreadie was appointed in February 2009 having moved from Stakeholder Communications in Belfast to become the inaugural holder of the press role. He now intends to broaden his horizons. although he does not yet have another position lined up.
He said: "I feel the time's right to move on and explore new opportunities. Establishing the GBGB press office function has been a good challenge - communicating the Board's welfare and regulatory work is vital to the sport's health and I feel there's a better understanding by the media and general public of the progress made in these areas.
"Greyhound racing has much to offer as a betting product and spectator sport, so it was a real positive when we saw the decline in national track attendance arrested in 2012, due to good local marketing, the rise of social media and the evolution of smartphone technology.
"I've made some very good friends in greyhound racing and hope to stay involved where I can. I'm very thankful to everyone at GBGB, past and present, for their support during the last five years."
GBGB chief executive Barry Faulkner said: "I'd like to thank James for the contribution he has made to the GBGB in his time here.
"He's had to handle press relations concerning a number of critical issues at a time when greyhound racing was dealing with the impact of the toughest recession in recent memory. All of us at the GBGB wish him well for the future."
TAKEN FROM THE GBGB WEBSITE: Latest News - GBGB Office Move 12/05/2014
GBGB is moving out of its current offices at Procter House in Holborn at the end of May.
The Greyhound Board’s new offices are located in New Bridge Street which is between Holborn and The City. Since its formation in 2009, GBGB has been headquartered in central London.
The close proximity to government, as well as the ease of access for those travelling to and from HQ has proved beneficial.
Although the original deal at Procter House represented excellent value for money, with a lease renewal looming it was clear that a significant rent increase would be forthcoming.
A favourable deal to vacate the office seven months early was secured and the new lease, on smaller premises, will result in a significant cost saving over the course of the new tenure.
GBGB Chief executive Barry Faulkner is confident of a smooth transition.
He commented: “We plan to move during May and while it’s a big operation, our team at GBGB is working hard to ensure as seamless a process as possible which will bring no disruption to the industry.”
The new property in London EC4 is within a 10 minute walk of St Paul’s and Farringdon and just a one minute walk to City Thameslink. Blackfriars is also a few minutes away and Bank and London Cannon Street are within a 15 minute walk.
The move will be staged and everyone is looking forward to settling in to the premises which are currently being fitted out.
Full address and contact details will be announced in due course.
Bob Rowe (right), pictured with legendary trainer Nick Savva, has welcomed the equal distribution of seeds
GBGB gives green light for equal distribution
GREYHOUNDS are to be equally distributed by seeding classification in the draws for open-race competitions in a major rule change announced by the GBGB.
The new procedure for drawing qualifying races will come into effect for draws made from next Monday meaning Sunderland's William Hill Festival competitions the following weekend will be the first major races included.
In a statement to be published in the GBGB Calendar out this weekend, the GBGB explains the new draw procedure which will see separate draws for railers, middle seeds and wides.
The earlier a greyhound is drawn out, in theory, the more advantageous the draw it will receive - for instance a six heat competition would see the first six railers out all receive trap one in a different heat with the seventh getting trap two in the first heat. Presently that scenario would lead to an all-railer opening heat.
Wides will be drawn and placed in a similar manner, but the draw for middle seeds will be in reverse with the first out getting the lowest available trap in the final heat.This is not the first time that equal distribution has been used as a tool for making trap draws, although it is a first since middle seeding was introduced. Bob Rowe, the recently-retired former GRA chief racing manager, recalls equal distribution during a number of White City Greyhound Derbys.
"I think 1982 might have been the last time it happened," said Rowe yesterday, "but it did throw up situations such as four wide seeds remaining at the Derby quarter-final stage all automatically getting trap six and a campaign against it gathered momentum.
"However, the majority of owners and trainers seem to be in favour of a return to equal distribution and with welfare quite rightly an increasingly serious concern this seems a sensible attempt to at least try to even things up in races."
For more details and further reaction see Wednesday's Racing Post
Simon Banks appointed GBGB Media and Communications Officer
The Greyhound Board of Great Britain is pleased to announce the appointment of Simon Banks as Media and Communications Officer. Simon is an experienced freelance journalist who has written for a wide range of national and business titles on a number of subjects including greyhound racing, general sport and gambling related matters. He is a greyhound owner and has a retired greyhound at home. He takes up his position on 1st July 2014.
Commenting on the appointment, GBGB Chief Executive Barry Faulkner said:
“I am delighted to welcome Simon to the GBGB where I am sure his excellent communication skills and enthusiasm for the sport will serve us well. The sport faces many challenges and Simon’s experience will be a valuable asset as we address those issues.”
“I am really looking forward to the challenge of communicating the GBGB’s key messages and developing relationships with stakeholders to produce strategies to promote the sport for the benefit of whole industry. I am passionate about greyhound racing and welcome the opportunity to raise the profile of the sport.”
Mark Bird: transparency his specialist subject when a senior police officer
Bird aiming to ensure rogues are rooted out
By Jim Cremin of the Racing Post
MARK BIRD, 49, director of regulation at the Greyhound Board, is well used to transparency issues. He has now been in his role for over seven months, having last year completed what used to be the standard 30 years career in the Metropolitan Police, ending up as a chief superintendent.
His responsibilities included managing major events in London and security operations across the UK. He also oversaw complaint investigations, and sat on Met Police disciplinary boards.
Other areas of responsibility included raising the public perception of the Met, which included a stint as commander at the Notting Hill Carnival for three years, and also had senior roles within the firearms and public order branches and the Met Taskforce (Territorial Support Group, dog section, mounted branch, marine and air support).
Transparency and especially ‘forensic audit’ are now buzz words attached to the Greyhound Board, with the Greyhound Trainers Association repeatedly calling for both.
Asked for his reaction, Bird says: “The term ‘forensic audit’ has been used around cases at FIFA, and it refers to a criminal investigation, so it’s patently mistaken to use it when there is no such investigation. You don’t conduct a forensic audit in the hope of finding a crime, it’s the other way around.”
Responding to recent comments from Linda Jones on Sky over why the Fund has fallen from £14m to £7m, Bird says: “The drop in the Fund allocation is nothing directly to do with the GBGB itself, what is needed are specific questions that can be answered, assuming they haven’t already been answered, by Tom Kelly [GBGB chairman] in his recent detailed response.”
Bird explains that the GBGB is certainly entirely open to transparency: “It’s important to clear up rumour and speculation once and for all.
“We should be challenged concerning appropriate subjects, it’s right to be scrutinised, but let’s remember there’s already an existing audit and management process concerning fund allocations. I find it frustrating that I ask for people to provide actual evidence to support allegations, as opposed to third-hand conjecture . . . and if it’s not then forthcoming then I, too, must be wrong or covering things up.
“There’s a current vacuum in terms of formal communication between GBGB and trainers because of so-called allegations, and it would be better to be talking to trainers’ reps constructively; a way around the impasse needs to be found. We will very likely end up with trainers’ kennels being inspected needing to be part of the Ukas accreditation, and the rumour mill has had it that we will be dispensing with all wooden kennels.
“This is not the case, but there are issues about having wood in certain places, for instance the doors of kennels which can be gnawed and splintered by the dogs. Yet there are also first-rate wooden kennels. We need to be debating with trainers the best way forward.”
He explains that further engagement with trainers could also discuss whether a new permit-type scheme should exist, and issues such as food-chain contamination, which has been the subject of a number of recent positive sample disciplinary hearings.
“We’re not the food police, we want to work with trainers – and they need to protect themselves as much as possible concerning meat contamination."
HE describes himself as pleased at the way the GBGB “is working with our colleagues in Ireland and Australia around drug-testing issues”.
He insists: “Integrity is everything, and standards within the industry generally are good. Certain people will always try to chance their hand, and that also raises obvious welfare concerns for racing greyhounds.
“All the trainers I’ve spoken to strongly support a drug-free sport, and totally despise the actions of the likes of Chris Mosdall. That particular case was ground-breaking as he was jailed for cheating after a Gambling Commission-led prosecution. The message is be prepared to do the time if you do the crime.”
Despite his tough message, Bird would like see disciplinary committee (DC) proceedings become less adversarial than they have, and for trainers to be allowed to give evidence via video link in certain circumstances.
“Obviously it’s always better for the DC if trainers are there to discuss and account for things face-to-face, but let’s say there’s someone who is based in the north-east but hasn’t the time or resources to cover a trip to London.
“Rather than them submitting a written explanation, which may or may not cover the issues, I’d like to explore them attending their relevant track and giving their account to the committee via Skype or similar, should the committee deem it appropriate.”
He also intends to arrange for all Category One events – made at the GBGB offices – to be drawn live on webcam. “Let’s start with the Cat One races, and show them on the GBGB website,” he says. “That is being put in place now.”
Having been to all 25 tracks, what has struck Bird is differing standards. “There’s almost 25 different ways of doing things!” he jokes. “That might be an exaggeration, but we should be seeking greater overall consistency. That said I’ve seen some wonderful work and, for example, extraordinary support for retired greyhounds being managed by many tracks.”
Tom Kelly, the GBGB chairman, says: “Mark has settled in well, has picked up on the sport rapidly, and we’re very pleased he agreed to join us.”
Barry Faulkner, the GBGB chief executive adds: “Mark was hugely accomplished in his police role, and with prominent QC Robert Griffiths and the eminent vet Peter Webbon now on our board too we have three top-notch players.”
ORIGINALLY Bird wanted to be a pilot, but his eyesight was deemed insufficient, so he went into the police force instead at the age of 18.
“My father was a docker at the old Ipswich port, and initially was sceptical and less than impressed with my career choice! But he came round, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself for those 30 years, developing a real passion about public service.
“Three years at Hackney, as a borough superintendent, helped me appreciate the extraordinary diversity within London, and the challenges. Cutbacks apply everywhere, including social services and housing, and the police have often been a last resort, picking up on problems.”
He used to have overall command of 1,200 officers from some 22 bases and a budget of £95m. “The Notting Hill Carnival was ‘mine’ for three years and is the biggest policing event in the whole of Europe, involving some 1.5m visitors, and our trying to avoid any gang-related issues.”
Toughest for him personally was dealing with suicide “or informing families of a sudden death. Both are hard, equally any loss of colleagues and thereafter supporting their families”.
Bird argues there is clearly a market for greyhound racing. “It’s far from being on its last legs,” he states. “There are those outside the sport who don’t want racing, and no matter what we do there’s little way to reason with them.
“I do want to ensure that the welfare of both the racing greyhounds and those who finish their career is paramount in order that the sport avoids the glare of the public.”
By contrast he has been delighted to see the quality of staff the GBGB has out in the field. “There’s a lot of hard-won experience and understanding, and we’ve introduced regular fortnightly team meetings for stipes, sampling stewards and our investigator.
“The idea is to discuss intelligence and initiatives, there’s a tremendous team spirit already in place, even though few people ever say ‘well done’ to a stipe for doing their job.
“I’d also like to see a Code of Practice to complement the Rule Book which elaborates on basic rules and give more detail and practical guidance to tracks, trainers and owners. I think as a regulatory body we could always improve on how we communicate.
“I don’t propose to sit in my office in London and merely preside over investigations. It’s important for me to get out, continue to visit stadiums and to listen and talk to trainers, racecourse managements and staff.”
He is seeking a new betting investigation officer, a role that is being advertised. “This post will allow us to work more closely with bookmakers, the Gambling Commission and police forces to provide the necessary evidence to link gambling to rule breaches or criminal activity.
“As a police officer I sought to make a difference, and that’s exactly what I intend to do now within greyhound racing.”
Jim Snowden has resigned from his position of Stipendiary Steward following 10 years’ service (7½ with the GBGB and 2½ with the NGRC). His last day will be Friday 30th September 2016.
GBGB Senior Stipendiary Steward Paul Illingworth said: “It’s disappointing to lose someone with Jim’s experience and knowledge from the industry. Jim has been an invaluable member of the team as is widely respected across the board by trainers and stadium staff alike. Jim spent many of his formative years working at several tracks round the country before joining NGRC 10 years ago. Everyone at GBGB wishes Jim a long and happy retirement, although he’s still got plenty of work to do before he goes in September!” The position of Stipendiary Steward for the south west and South Wales is currently being advertised on the GBGB website, the Greyhound Star website and will appear in the next edition of the Calendar.