Shawfield racing manager Daniel Rankin is reporting an escalating growth in interest in the new owner trainer licences.
“Your story said there were 96, you can safely say it has gone well past 100 this week” he said on Friday morning. “At the moment we probably have over 20 owner trainer runners, plus another dozen trainers who are still qualifying runners, one or two dogs each.
“Then there are about ten others, including some who have just left Gretna, which appears to have been sold, who have phoned up asking how they go about getting a licence. It is definitely building as word gets around. “Earlier in the year we had 16 races a week. This weekend, there will be 22, and although they include three opens, most of the runners are Shawfield dogs anyway.”
So where do they come from?
Rankin said: “There are quite a few ex-flapping lads but there are several who used to train before and have come back into the game to take a licence. We even had one guy apply, who the steward realised had enough kennels to qualify for a greyhound trainer licence, so he changed his plans and he will eventually have six dogs with us.”
The GBGB has whittled down the nominations for the board director’s role, assigned to a greyhound owner, to two candidates, Bob Boswell and Paul Ephremsen. Details of the ballot procedure, in which every registered owner will be invited to participate, will be revealed this week. Both candidates are due to appear as guests on RPGTV on Wednesday.
We are happy to produce the two ‘manifestos’, starting with Bob Boswell’s . .
Bob Boswell, an owner for more than 20 years at Wimbledon and Hove, and chairman of the owners associations at both tracks, sees the current election for the owner’s role as a ‘peculiar contest’.
He said: “Paul Ephremson and I are on the same side. He is clearly a very bright guy with a business background and some good ideas. My interests and experience is on the retired and welfare side of the business, and drawing on nearly twenty years experience of negotiations with promoters and management of greyhound tracks.
“With ten owners expressing an interest in becoming the owners representative on the board, this clearly shows that there are a good number of people who have a passion for greyhound racing and ownership and want to be part of planning its future.
“If I were to be elected, I would certainly be looking at using that passion and seeking people with particular knowledge or experience to serve on a sub committee and certainly using Paul in looking at the commerciality of owning greyhounds and the other areas he has expressed an expertise in.
“One of the areas that concerns me is the divide between training and retired. Most people who take home a retired dog are interested in its racing career. No matter how modest, yet they are discouraged from knowing anything about the dog. I want to move Greyhound welfare and Retired Greyhounds up the agenda.”
Boswell is aware that as an attendee of meetings held by the Federation of British Greyhound Owners Associations in the last eighteen months, may not work in his favour with some voters, though he feels much of the criticism is unfair.
He said: “I have had decent people ask me, ‘what has the FBGOA done for me as an owner?’. But it was never designed as that sort of organisation. It was an amalgamation of various owners associations, not a political body. Through attending FBGOA meetings it has given me a small insight in to the workings of the GBGB Board and sub committees, the complexities and personalities, which means if elected, I would not be going in totally blind.
“As years have progressed, a lot of the associations have dropped away and having a handful of people meet at a hotel to discuss owners issues is less relevant. Going forward I would suggest that owners could come together in region groups and then we could discuss issues using video conferencing to ensure greater participation.
“In terms of priorities, obviously increased prize money is at the top. It is only through increased prize money that, this sport can truly grow, ensuring trainers can be paid fairly for the services they provide, kennel staff receive a living wage, and to own a greyhound can once again be the proud claim of people from all walks of life”
“I am also encouraged by the appointment of Peter Harnden as the trainers representative. His handling of the recent “anti” radio interview on Radio Nottingham was a masterclass in diplomacy and tact. Working together with a strong trainers representative can only be beneficial for owners.”
Following Bob Bobswell’s ‘manifesto’ – we invite readers to learn more about the second candidate in the GBGB owner’s election, Paul Ephremesen.
Paul Ephremsen was originally an owner at Walthamstow, probably best known for his association with Gymcrack winner Droopys Woods. He also created Beechfield Racing, from where Carly Philpott trained and handled a small team of open race dogs. Following the closure of Walthamstow, Paul reduced his greyhound involvement but remained in touch with long standing friend Mark Wallis.
Ephremsen eventually returned as an owner and was directly involved in the ill-fated California who was owned by the World Syndicate which Paul set up last year. He is also involved with a group of friends who own the ‘Calco’ runners.
Paul is a successful businessman with a significantly sized marketing company called iD – idagency.com – plus a couple of similar marketing organisations.
(Check out the show reel on the idagency.com website – it’s a mind opener- Ed) So why apply for the role of owners’ representative? Paul said: “The way I see it, there are two roles. Firstly, to represent the interests of owners who have vital role in this industry. Secondly, as a businessman, I feel a great sense of frustration that for a number of reasons, our sport has not modernised in the way that most other sports and leisure activities have.
“This crosses all areas of customer/owner experience including stadiums and hospitality (facilities), the quality and presentation of the event itself, online products (availability and quality), quality of TV broadcasts, and the general PR and promotion that creates the hype about an event or sport.
“I know how good greyhound racing can be. But as an owner I certainly don’t currently have an idea about the plan to address these areas. And it’s difficult to introduce greyhound racing to new people because it hasn’t moved with the times. “As a businessman, I am aware that funding will be needed for many of the projects and I would be keen to develop a new approach with the betting industry. ‘With a true collaboration between the GBGB and the bookmakers, what sort of strategic growth plan could we jointly develop to grow the sport, to modernise it , and how could both parties benefit financially now and further down the line?’ “Is there a plan in place to do this? If not, why not? What are we going to do about the decline in owner numbers? I am not aware of an industry strategy to tackle the problem.
“Personally, as a marketeer, I have a number of ideas that I think would benefit the industry. But I am aware that I also lack specialist knowledge in certain sectors of the industry and would be reliant on a committee structure to produce a workable coherent strategy.”
“I would really like to emphasise that, should I be offered the seat, my role would be firmly collaborative. This is not a full time gig. There are some exceptional people in the owners ranks and it would be a priority to get them involved’’ ‘’The first aim would be to set up a mechanism for owners to share positive ideas for change and with the help of others filter these and prioritise before I present them to the Board.’’
“This really is a fantastic industry but it needs fresh ideas and impetus. I applied the owner’s position on GBGB because I think I can provide both.”
AMIN Mohammed Waqas Sajid (Mr) MIDLANDS BROWN Michael (Mr) NORTHUMBERLAND
EVANS Raymond (Mr) MANCHESTER
FITTON Joshua David (Mr) LANCASHIRE
GARVIN Victoria Ann (Mrs) TYNE and WEAR HAWTHORN Robert Allan (Mr) AYRSHIRE HURST John David (Mr) LEICESTER KEARNEY Francis (Mr) DURHAM LOXLEY Craig David (Mr) YORKSHIRE MILGREW Thomas (Mr) AYRSHIRE ROBINS Keith Charles (Mr) BEDFORDSHIRE WALKER Neil John (Mr) CAMBRIDGESHIRE WATSON John (Mr) DURHAM WINDLE William John (Mr) CUMBRIA
THE MONDAY COLUM By Mr Jonathan Kay of the Racing Post
Tom Kelly: officially departed as GBGB Chairman last week
Candidates for GBGB role fit the bill perfectly
AS an owner I will be delighted regardless of whether it is Bob Boswell and Paul Ephremsen who wins the vote to represent my interests on the GBGB board, and I hope the unsuccessful candidate can be found a role too.
Both offer obvious, if different, strengths and neither is likely to be easily fobbed off. With Pete Harnden already in place representing the trainers, there should be real energy added to what, in all honesty, otherwise looks an ageing, tired organisation, certainly at board level.
There has been criticism of the process by which the two candidates were chosen and it is understandable that those who were interviewed but missed out may be a little miffed, although a number of emails to RPGTV on the night Boswell and Ephremsen appeared were generously supportive.
If anything, the fact that the GBGB felt the need to identify the candidates shows up one glaring fault in the sport at present, namely the demise of local owners' associations.
There are still a few good examples, with Boswell chairing Hove's having fulfilled the same role at Wimbledon, but by and large they have disappeared, probably in part due to disillusionment at not actually being effectively listened to.
A good local owners' association is a strength for any track and, while some management may see them as an irritant, they should be embraced.
It was disappointing to hear from John Darler, in an email to RPGTV, that Henlow's formerly thriving owners' association floundered in part to suggestions not being taken up as such a grass-roots venue surely can only be stronger for being closer with owners.
Owners' complaints are not always about prize money as, by and large, poor rewards are tolerated for the love of the sport, even if that does not mean that efforts should always be made to be as generous as possible within a realistic budget.
Utilised properly, a vibrant owners' association can be the eyes and ears of management, and provide feedback about what works and what doesn't work far better than any customer survey.
Perhaps the first job of whoever is voted in could be to encourage the GBGB board, and particularly the promoters on it, to push for every track to have an owners' body, which in turn could re-invigorate the national body – does the Federation of British Greyhound Owners' Associations still exist?
It may well do in name, but has been realistically moribund for many years and more a fiefdom than union.
Much of the disillusionment from people who otherwise love and have a real passion for greyhound racing emanates from feeling that they have no voice and are taken advantage of.
I also hope that Harnden and the new owners' rep are not too tightly gagged by 'corporate responsibility' and are allowed to outline what has happened to suggestions they make.
Just this week, a new Twitter account @gbgbstaff has appeared and given an insight into the the day-to-day jobs carried out by employees of the governing body.
My understanding is early updates have mainly come from stipendiary stewards but this will hopefully expand in time.
It is unrealistic to expect the GBGB board to explain and publicise every decision or discussion, but surely not for a round-up of each meeting to be made public.
There is a distrust of its motives with many feeling it is promoter-dominated and focused too much on greyhound racing as a business, rather than a passion.
With Tom Kelly having officially departed as chairman last week, there is the need to find a replacement while there could be other changes in the coming months too.
The wider greyhound public deserves some explanation of the process in making key appointments – Kelly's remit was clearly to help solve the funding issue over offshore turnover and he remains in situ with that sole responsibility as a consultant, even though no longer chairman.
There does seem genuine will from all sides, aided by a little less than subtle nudging from government, for resolution, and it may well be that Lord Lipsey's forthcoming mediation does the trick.
In that case, the new chairman will start with a far better hand than the last, so how does the GBGB board want him to play it? I think we should be told.