The Manawatu Greyhound Racing Club is scrambling for money to pay off a massive debt it says was dumped on it last year by the sport’s governing body.
Lawyers’ letters are arriving, the coffers are bare and the club president has suffered a heart attack from the stress because of the $660,000 bill.
When the new greyhound race track was built at the Manawatu Raceway in 2007, the club thought it had a great deal based on a gentleman’s agreement.
Instead, it ended up with the debt, to be repaid in the next 10 years, for a track which does not have lights and is used only on Monday afternoons.
“There’s been a lot of promises made and not kept and that’s why we are in this position,” club vice-president Bill Hodgson said.
But Greyhound Racing New Zealand argued the Palmerston North club’s officials knew about the loan.
“They’ve known about it for three years,” board chairman Trevor Deed said.
“The issue is not about the loan, it’s about the effectiveness of the committee. The reality is that the committee doesn’t seem to be talking to each other.”
Mr Deed said he would not formally meet with club members at the national body’s annual meeting today but the issue would probably be discussed.
Club president John Gommans will not be attending the annual meeting in Wanganui. He is recovering in hospital from a heart attack, suffered on Tuesday. More than a year after the track was built, a loan agreement to pay back the greyhound association arrived at the club.
Mr Deed said the loan agreement could not be written sooner, as they were negotiating terms of a back-to-back loan with the New Zealand Racing Board.
The racing board loaned $660,000 to the greyhound association to build the track, chief executive Andrew Brown said.
The association is passing on that loan to the club, he said.
“I understand that the two parties are in agreement, with the view to come to an amicable resolution.”
Mr Brown would not comment any further.
The club had thought the New Zealand Racing Board was taking care of the costs, Mr Hodgson said.
“When they first talked of putting that track in here they realised we had limited funds and after a lot of discussion they said, `Look, we’ll put the track in and we will make sure you are looked after’.
“We took it for granted that they would pay for the track.”
Initially the club refused to sign the $660,000 agreement when it first arrived early last year, club secretary and manager Ashoka Pandey said.
It was finally signed in December last year, without getting legal advice, after the greyhound association threatened to revoke the club’s racing lease for February.
The greyhound association said no such move was ever made.
The first payment of $66,000 plus interest was not met on October 1. On Monday, a lawyer’s letter arrived at the club telling them to pay up. The money simply is not there and the greyhound association is not going to budge on the loan amount.
But it might consider stretching out the time limit for the loan and will meet with the club next week to discuss payment options.
Courtesy : Bronwyn Torrie, Manawatu Standard