A rift between Ireland’s greyhound racing regulators and the owners of Lifford dog track has stalled plans to reopen the stadium.
Greyhound Racing Ireland (GRI) said that as matters stood, it is not in a position to grant a licence that would allow racing to recommence.
The GRI’s comments come in the wake of an open letter from Canaradzo Limited, the conglomerate that took over the Lifford track in 2021.
In its correspondence Canaradzo expressed its frustration at the delays it said were preventing racing from going ahead at the famous stadium. The business grouping also detailed its plans to completely self-fund the track with a significant involvement from the UK Tote Group.
According to Canaradzo the “ambitious plans and self-funding strategy” had already received the backing of the GRI.
In its letter the collective said it was facing increasing pressure from local greyhound enthusiasts, company investors and the media to explain the delays in commencing racing operations.
“We have been unable to give a satisfactory explanation for the delay. We therefore respectfully request that GRI explains exactly what is preventing the issuance of the requisite licence.”
They added that the stadium’s reopening had the potential to create over 100 jobs. To not take such an opportunity would be a “travesty for the entire sport”.
“The industry operating conditions that existed in 2021 are still prevalent and the future of Irish Greyhound Racing needs innovative solutions to help reduce government funding for the industry.
“Lifford Greyhound Stadium reopening will allow this model to be trialled at zero cost and zero risk to GRI and the Irish taxpayer. The Lifford project is not simply about reopening a greyhound track – it is about the importance of changing the funding model for greyhound racing, if it is successful.
“We have taken our lead from the Australian model which has become a magnificent example of using major revenue streams available, from on and off-course betting, to fully fund its operations and provide unrivalled support for owners and breeders.”
Canaradzo added, “GRI should not be allowed to sit on the sidelines or to further prevaricate on matters that can be resolved quickly. As the custodian of greyhound racing regulation in Ireland, GRI is central to Lifford’s plan to rejuvenate the Donegal and cross-border economies and to grow Irish tourism for our sport.”
But Greyhound Racing Ireland has rejected any suggestion that it has been responsible for a delay in reopening Lifford.
The GRI said it first met with the Lifford Greyhound Racing Stadium Club Ltd in June 2021 when a number of terms and conditions were laid down – “not least and quite importantly in connection with the operation of a Tote offering”.
“GRI welcomed the initiative at the outset but made it perfectly clear that any proposal being considered by GRI must comply with all legal requirements and must be underpinned by a persuasive commercial plan making the business venture workable and viable for all concerned.
“Notwithstanding the initial communications, GRI did not receive a detailed proposal until May 20 2022. This was considered by GRI’s solicitors who advised GRI that the business proposal submitted was not workable as it would contravene GRI’s obligations as the Tote Licence holder under the Totalisator Act 1929.
“GRI advised of the legal position and outlined that an alternative proposal would be given due consideration. To date GRI has not received any alternative proposal.”
The greyhound authority added that while it appreciates the passion of those involved in Lifford greyhound stadium, the reality was that as a statutory body it could only act within the legislation under which it is governed.
“The proposals initially put to GRI, and the subsequent communications, do not meet with those legal requirements,” the regulator said.
“It was always the case that any proposal being considered by GRI must comply with the law and satisfy the commercial objectives and statutory requirements of GRI.
“GRI has not delayed this process. Despite being advised that the original proposal received by GRI – regarding operating a Tote licence etc – was not possible under the Totalisator Act 1929, GRI has not been furnished with an alternative detailed proposal from UK Tote or Lifford Racing Stadium which can be progressed at this time.”
The GRI added that it was “fully transparent” on all matters relating to Lifford and that it did not want to conduct further negotiations in the public domain.
“GRI staff have expended a significant amount of time engaging with Lifford Greyhound Racing Stadium and UK Tote Group and have been more than co-operative, both companies have been advised that any further proposals will be given appropriate consideration.”