THE live-baiting scandal has plunged the sport of greyhound racing into turmoil with participants nationwide struggling to pick up the pieces of their decimated industry.
However, maybe the whole fiasco is exactly what was needed to incite the changes required so the entire industry can move forward onto a brighter future.
Just over three weeks have passed since the infamous Four Corners program titled ‘Making A Killing’ aired on our televisions and, since then, a world of change has already occurred within the sport.
The latest developments came on Thursday, with the announcement CEO of GRNSW Brent Hogan had resigned from his position. This comes after the the announcement on the February 18, which saw Hogan and the entire board were stood down or sacked by NSW Racing Minister Troy Grant. Since that time, Paul Newson has been appointed as the Interim CEO of GRNSW.
Eleven participants have been suspended within the state and Newson acted swiftly to show his zero-tolerance attitude towards live-baiting, suspending 36 greyhounds associated with suspended participants around the country.
“There is absolutely no escaping that greyhound racing in NSW has lost its social license and it must be confronted,” Newson said.
“GRNSW has recently suspended 11 participants and 36 greyhounds. One of the messages I want to convey is that there are no apologies for that action.
“My immediate task is to attempt and strive to recover, to claw back that loss of social license and to reinstall the integrity of the sport.
“From our perspective, it is entirely appropriate and necessary to suspend a greyhound where there is any possibility that it may have been exposed to the practise of live-baiting.”
In addition to the suspensions and the changes within the structure of GRNSW, the NSW Government announced last week a Special Commission of Inquiry to investigate issues of animal welfare and integrity within the NSW greyhound industry.
It is set to be led by Justice Michael McHugh and will have the same wide-ranging powers of a Royal Commission, also calling upon heavy hitters in the police, greyhound racing and animal welfare industries.
What has happened in NSW was to be expected. After all, how can the community regain their faith and confidence in the industry unless sweeping changes are made to ensure a fiasco such as this never happens again?
Similar changes have also been initiated in Victoria. On Wednesday, barely a fortnight after GRV Chairman Peter Caillaird stood down, further shockwaves from the live-baiting scandal continued to be felt within the halls of Greyhound Racing Victoria. News broke that the rest of the GRV Board had resigned with the announcement that Interim Chair Michael Harris and Board Members Jenni Coustley, Geoff Miles and Stephen Silk had all handed in their resignations just moments after Racing Commissioner Sal Perna cleared them of any wrong doing in relation to the live-baiting saga.
Perna made the announcement as part of his interim report from an independent investigation into industry participants within the state. He dismissed the industry was involved in corruption or cover-ups and said there was no evidence the GRV Board, the CEO or Senior Management knew about the practice of live-baiting within Victoria. While there was no evidence to claim live-baiting is a wide-spread activity, Perna also mentioned there was going to be no assumption it was restricted to just the Tooradin Trial track.
The former board have now been replaced by a team of three, headed by Ray Gunston, the former CFO of Tatts Group and the Interim CEO of the Essendon Football Club.
Gunston knows a thing or two about helping an organisation through difficult times. He was called in as the Interim CEO of Essendon after Ian Robson quit mid-season following on from the drugs scandal which continues to rock the AFL club.
Gunston will be joined on the new Board by Judith Bornstein, a prominent Melbourne Barrister with experience in a diverse range of employment and industrial relations issues. Prior to beginning her legal career she was an elected union official, a Commissioner of the Industrial Relations Commission of Victoria and a sessional conciliator for The Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
The third member of the GRV Board is Ken Lay, the former Victorian Police Chief Commissioner who was widely respected in his role which he held for three years.
The old board’s resignation comes after 15 registered Victorian participants were stood down last month following vision aired in the ABC’s Four Corners program which exposed the practice of live-baiting in action at the Tooradin Trial track. Since then, Victoria has already acted to strengthen welfare and integrity concerns within the greyhound racing industry with Minister for Racing Martin Pakula and Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, announcing a broad investigation into animal welfare and allegations of animal cruelty within the sport.
This was on top of Perna’s independent investigation.
The Victorian Government has also allocated up to $3 million from the Victorian Racing Infrastructure Fund towards strengthening GRV’s animal welfare and integrity measures.
At present, GRV CEO Adam Wallish still remains in the top job.
Racing Queensland’s reaction to the live baiting scandal has seen 13 participants stood down after the Four Corners footage was aired, with five of those warned-off for life on March 2.
Racing Queensland also announced a new welfare levy on all greyhound prize money and subsidies following on from the scandal, aiming to raise more than $1.6 million in additional funding.
However, their actions aside from enforcing the measures mentioned above have been questionable. The authorities seized approximately 100 greyhounds from the properties of suspended participants, however there has still been no public announcement as to where these dogs are being kept or what the future holds for them.
Further to this, the full Board and CEO remain untouched at Racing Queensland, with just one person being stood down from the authority body, Chief Integrity Officer Wade Birch.
Alarmingly, Racing Queensland have also made moves to discontinue promotion of the greyhound industry, removing all mention of the code from the ‘Girls on Track’ series, something that was intended to unite the three racing codes within the state.
The Queensland State government announced an independent review into animal welfare issues within the state’s greyhound racing industry earlier this month, but it is yet to be revealed whether this investigation will result in any changes amongst RQ figure heads.
Australian Racing Greyhound has previously called for the chairs, the chief executive officers and the chief stewards from the three authority boards to either stand down or be removed. While this is yet to be fully executed, it seems the industry, the government and the controlling bodies themselves are starting to realise something needs to be done to repair the sport’s image and build it back up to the respected industry it once was.
One thing is for certain, aside from the industry ceasing entirely, things can’t get much worse than they are at present. By making these changes the industry is ensuring it is showing a willingness to change and it is on the right track back to success.