By Jonathan Kay

GREYHOUND racing will not take place in the UK for at least three weeks, and in Ireland until April 19 at the earliest, following announcements on Tuesday.
The GBGB, which had initially paused racing by cancelling all Tuesday’s meetings following prime minister Boris Johnson’s Monday evening statement to the nation on the Covid-19 pandemic, subsequently held an emergency board meeting.
GBGB managing director Mark Bird said: “Yesterday we suspended all greyhound racing at our licensed stadia in response to the most recent advice from the government – that everyone should stay at home unless for exceptional and essential trips.
“After advice from colleagues at Defra and DCMS, we can confirm that this cessation of racing will need to continue for at least the next three weeks and until further notice.
“Under the new government restrictions, DCMS has responded that ‘work necessity’ will cover the care and welfare of greyhound residential kennels. Racing would constitute a ‘gathering of more than two people’. Defra will publish specific advice in due course and we will share this as soon as the GBGB receives it.
“As the sport’s regulator, the welfare and care of our greyhounds is always our highest priority. We all recognise that it is essential that trainers can continue to travel to and from their kennels in order to feed and care for their dogs.
“But we can no longer continue to race, even behind doors, while the government’s advice remains at this escalated state in terms of social gatherings.”
Acutely aware of the financial pressure facing trainers, many of whom own a large percentage of the greyhounds in their kennels, the GBGB also announced support in that regard starting on April 1, while adding that the burden needed to be shared.
Bird said: “We’ve been very clear with government that putting a temporary stop to racing will have an immediate economic impact on those working in the sport.
“As previously announced, we will therefore be releasing funds for greyhound and professional trainers to assist them in the coming weeks to provide food and bedding for their greyhounds.
“This will constitute 50p per day per dog for each trainer and will include puppies and retired greyhounds, as well as current racers.
“This contingency eliminates – in the short term – any risk to trainers not being able to meet the basic welfare needs of their greyhounds due to loss of income.
“Eligibility for this support will begin on Wednesday, April 1. Our stipendiary stewards and office staff are currently working with trainers and kennel staff across the sport to determine the extent of the current need.
“We will communicate further later this week with details of how these hardship payments can be accessed.
“As well as these crucial welfare payments, we will continue to signpost trainers, veterinary surgeons and stadia owners, who all rely on income from our sport, to the government assistance packages being offered.
“Currently, this is not sufficiently accessible to the self-employed, but we will continue to urge the government to provide greater support in the immediate term. We are confident that this will ultimately be successful and would urge those who are self-employed in the sport to be ready to access what support is announced.”
The GBGB accepts that some people could be lost to the sport before any resumption with Bird saying: “We also recognise that – should the national social distancing measures continue for many months – trainers will be facing the unfortunate and regrettable position of shutting down their operations altogether.
“We have been in close contact with our rehoming charity partners, in particular the Greyhound Trust, who are on standby should greater number of greyhounds need new homes in an emergency.
“At GBGB we recognise our core responsibility for safeguarding the welfare of our greyhounds, but likewise we are clear that this is shared by all those associated with the sport – stadia, trainers, owners and the UK bookmaking industry.
“We are all prepared for the weeks and months ahead and are grateful for the way the sport has united in considering the way ahead.
“We will continue to keep the sport together through regular communication, through social media and through the friendships that comprise this sport at a personal level. We urge everyone in the sport to look after each other and our dogs. We will come through this and look forward to racing again as soon as is feasibly possible.”
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and British Veterinary Association (BVA) have told their veterinary members to reduce face-to-face contact immediately, switching instead to emergency care.
In Ireland, meetings at Shelbourne Park and Tralee were set to go ahead last night with a government ban coming into force at midnight until at least April 19.