Following a review today of its COVID-19 Operational Policy, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) has announced that racecourses that have successfully completed the initial two weeks of greyhound racing will be able to fast-track to unlimited racing from Monday 15th June 2020.
After a positive fortnight of trialling at most GBGB tracks as part of Phase One of the COVID-19 Operational Policy, the resumption of racing has seen racecourses, trainers and kennel staff get too grips with the new safety and biosecurity measures in place. As per the Policy, Phase Two has so far limited the races taking place whilst GBGB stipendiary stewards have monitored compliance – working closely with tracks’ Compliance Management Officers (CMOs) to do so.
Based on evidence from racecourses, the processes so far have been implemented successfully and well received by those visiting the track. Therefore, from next week, instead of moving onto Phase Three of the Policy, most racecourses will be given the go-ahead to run unlimited races within a meeting at gaps of 20 minutes, should they choose to.
This is a considerable step forward from the current 30 minute gap and maximum of ten races to which tracks are currently working. However, after productive discussions with promoters, trainers and kennel staff, GBGB’s stipendiary team are confident that the sport is ready to take this next step earlier than planned whilst still retaining the highest levels of safety and risk management.
Those tracks who have not begun racing yet, however, such as Towcester, will still need to operate under Phase Two conditions as they begin racing to ensure that they are able to successfully implement the new measures before moving forward.
Importantly, alongside this news, GBGB is also announcing that face coverings will be required not only at the pick-up, but in all enclosed spaces at the track such as kennel and paddock areas. This follows feedback from trainers and racecourse staff and recent government guidance which will see face coverings required on public transport.
With these developments and the continued easing of government restrictions, GBGB is also announcing that open racing will be permitted under the Operational Policy from Monday 29th June. It will be down to individual tracks to work on a schedule and dependent on their operational capacity. GBGB will be working alongside tracks to publish the open race schedule over the course of the next two weeks.
Paul Illingworth, GBGB Senior Stipendiary Steward, said “Tracks and trainers have clearly demonstrated that they were able to fully comply with the new measures in place to keep everyone safe over the course of the first two phases of our Operational Policy. We have always said that we would keep our Policy under continual review and we are pleased that we are able to move ahead of schedule.
“We have taken feedback on the Policy into account and tracks are now able to speed up the process should they wish. Individual stadia will need to take into account what works best for them, but they will now be free to stage more races within a meeting and reduce waiting times.
“Of course, there cannot be any room for complacency as we move forward and, as the requirement to wear face coverings in all enclosed spaces at the track now shows, there are new processes we will need to add into the mix as government guidance is updated.”
Mark Bird, GBGB Managing Director, said “We know that trainers, owners and fans of our sport have been patiently waiting for an update regarding open racing and we are pleased to provide the green light for this today. Whilst the staging of opens will be a decision taken by each racecourse, we are confident that our measures and the government’s guidance are now in such a place where this can be done with minimal risk to health and safety.
“As the first sport back, greyhound racing has really flown the flag for the UK over the past week but we are proud to have done so responsibly, taking one step at a time. We know people will be eager to see the calendar for the return of open racing and the Committee is meeting later this week to discuss further details. We will of course update the industry with a schedule as soon as we are able.”