THE GBGB has followed up Monday’s release of its operational policy designed to facilitate the return of racing by issuing a FAQ guide to comments subsequently posed by industry stakeholders including the thorny subject of open-racing.
Racing has been suspended since March 23 following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ban on public gatherings due to the Covid-19 crisis but there are tentative plans for trials to restart on May 18 should the go-ahead be given. However,, the envisaged best-case-scenario for opens is another six weeks after that.
The follow-up document – which can be found here – states:
How and why was the policy created?
As the sport’s regulator, under the principles of the Greyhound Commitment, GBGB has been clear that its priority is to seek a rapid return to some form of racing.
But that, likewise, this must be done responsibly and appropriately with due care to both the welfare of greyhounds and the health and safety of the sport and the wider public.
As such, through an industry-led working group, GBGB has developed a comprehensive Covid-19 operational policy that details the necessary operational measures for a phased resumption of greyhound racing behind closed doors.
This includes all new aspects of biosecurity (ie hygiene and social distancing protocols) required. All consideration has been made to ensure that the operational policy delivers a responsible but effective return to racing during the coronavirus pandemic, once current government ‘lockdown’ restrictions are able to be eased.

Who was involved in the working group and why?
In order to work quickly and efficiently during the temporary cessation of racing, the working group comprised a small team of GBGB board and racecourse representatives and the GBGB senior stipendiary steward.
Throughout their considerations, however, they took advice and feedback from a range of different industry representatives – most notably from veterinary experts on all elements relating to greyhound welfare.
As the operational policy centres on the operational activities at the racecourse, and what additional biosecurity measures needed to be put in place to meet government guidance on Covid-19, it was not felt necessary to have either the owner or trainer practitioner represented on the working group. Compliance with the operational policy is likewise a condition of a racecourse’s licence.
Nevertheless, the views of trainers were sought at an early stage via GBGB’s stipendiary stewards, which have been clearly reflected in the operational policy. Examples of this include the use of slip leads and non-sharing of racing jackets.
The operational policy is designed to ensure behind closed doors racing can resume safely and effectively as soon as feasibly possible.
As racecourses progress through the phases, and the government advice on Covid-19 develops and/or changes, the policy itself will be reviewed and updated where appropriate.

Some trainers are in the category of over 70 and/or ‘increased risk’ groups. Are they not permitted to attend the track for trials/races?
GBGB is aware that some trainers may be at ‘high risk’ of coronavirus, according to the most up-to-date NHS advice. Those individuals are advised to carefully consider the latest NHS guidance throughout all phases of the operational policy, in order to not bring additional risks to their own health and safety.
Whilst the operational policy does not require racecourses to prohibit ‘increased risk’ individuals from trials or races, everyone is strongly urged to act in their own best health interests in line with the NHS advice.
Should any trainer be concerned about what the NHS advice means for them, or about the care of their greyhounds should they become ill/or need to self-isolate, they are urged to contact their GBGB area stipendiary steward at the earliest opportunity.

Who can trainers or kennel staff speak to if they are concerned about or have any questions regarding social distancing at their track?
Each racecourse will have a nominated compliance management officer (CMO) for each race and trial meeting. Trainers or kennel staff with concerns should speak to the CMO on duty.
If they still have concerns once they have spoken to the CMO they can contact their GBGB area stipendiary steward.

Can trainers/owners be reassured that the track has been properly prepared following the period of not being in use?
Yes. GBGB expect all racecourses to prepare the racing surface in the normal way. Should the racing surface not be suitable, the local stewards have a responsibility not to use it.

With a minimum 30-minute gap between races this will mean that dogs are left in kennels for extended periods and, if so, what should tracks be doing to mitigate any welfare issues around this?
In phase two of the policy, a greyhound in the last race kennelled 1h 45mins before the first race will be in the kennels for less time than a greyhound kennelled at the same time running in the last race on a 14-race card with 20min gaps in phase four.
Racecourses are strongly encouraged to stagger kennelling times to minimise the number of trainers at the racecourse at any one time and as a result the length of time that a greyhound would spend in a kennel.

Why is open-racing not going to be allowed yet?
The decision not to allow open-racing whilst the sport resumes behind closed doors was not taken lightly and is constantly under review.
GBGB, through the working group and the operational policy, has sought to deliver a safe return to racing that meets the needs of the highest number of greyhounds in the first instance – the majority of which are graded.
Open-racing had stopped before racing was suspended on March 23 as it was considered a high risk at the time.
The government has increased restrictions subsequently and therefore, at this stage, we believe that the continued temporary cessation of open-racing is necessary.
This decision is based not only on the government restrictions on movement but on the need for maintained social distancing and a common-sense approach that mixing amongst a wider group of people – from different locations across the country – can only put larger numbers at risk of spreading or catching the virus.
The operational policy outlines a range of new procedures for the conduct of race and trial meetings and it is important that there is a settling in period for racecourse staff and trainers and kennel staff to adjust to the new requirements.
As racecourses progress through the phases, GBGB will continue to consider and advise on the potential for other processes or mechanisms for open-race dogs to compete in some way.

When will open-racing return?
When government restrictions are eased to allow greater movement among larger groups of people, a re-introduction of open-racing could be considered once racecourses are able to demonstrate compliance with the operational policy.
We envisage this time period to coincide with racecourses moving to phase four of the operational policy, which could be six weeks after trialling commences.
The format, frequency and details of any open races staged would need to meet the existing Open Race Calendar Planning guidelines and would be at the sole discretion of any racecourse that wished to stage them.

Can unattached trainers join their local track and, if so, who do they need to speak to organise this?
Most unattached trainers will already have a relationship with a racecourse for the purpose of obtaining trials or getting greyhounds registered.
It is up to each unattached trainer to make their own arrangements with a racecourse, bearing in mind that unattached trainers are only permitted to travel to one racecourse, as per the operational policy. This is because of current government restrictions on movement due to Covid-19; should these restrictions change, the policy will be updated as appropriate to reflect this.
Each racecourse has the right to accept any unattached trainer for trials and/or graded racing. Equally, racecourses have the right not to accommodate an unattached trainer.
It is recognised that they may prefer to prioritise their own attached trainers in the first instance.

What if an unattached trainer’s dog is not suited to their nearest track?
If a trainer is concerned about the suitability of a particular greyhound to their nearest track, they should wait until the restrictions on travel and movement have been lifted, and thus the operational policy updated, or try contacting another racecourse.