IGB told sell Harold’s Cross and cut prizes

The financially troubled Irish Greyhound Board has been told to sell off assets including the Harold’s Cross track and transform its performance if it is to survive.

The company, which is €22m in debt, will also have to cut prize money and reduce the number of races at loss-making tracks and address “significant regulatory deficiencies”.

This is according to a comprehensive review of the industry prepared for the minister for agriculture following two years of controversy surrounding the semi-state company’s finances.

The IGB has been given three months to draw up plans for how it will implement the recommendations of the Indecon report.

The document said the company will not be able to repay its bank loans, which it is currently negotiating to restructure with AIB, if it does not revisit its recently published strategic plan.

This is because its performance has already failed to match its forecasts and its upcoming targets are unlikely to be hit.

The board has been mired in debt since 2009 when it decided to construct a new headquarters and track in Limerick with key engineering features reliant on a gentleman’s agreement with the company that sold it the site.

The Indecon report said the company’s €22m bank debt was now unsustainable, and “the single largest contributing factor to the level of debt was the investment in the Limerick stadium”.

The independent report, prepared for minister of state Tom Hayes, said the decision to proceed with Limerick was based on “very optimistic” assumptions that ignored the effect a declining economy was having.

Indecon said the analysis presented to the board in 2009, before it made the critical decision to move to construction, was “inadequate”.

The report also looked at the IGB’s handling of regulation problems and doping. It said too many positive tests were dismissed and the overall regulatory performance was potentially damaging the reputation of the sport.

The report said the power to appoint the control committee, which hears doping cases, should be taken from the IGB and that this key body should be appointed directly by the minister.

It also said there were “significant regulatory deficiencies” that needed to be addressed. It called for stiffer sanctions for those who break the rules.

Mr Hayes said the report made it clear “urgent action” had to be taken to ensure the survival of IGB.

He said he will make the necessary legislative changes to improve the regulation of the sector “as a matter of urgency”.

He has given the IGB until the end of September to come up with a plan for implementing Indecon’s recommendations.

The IGB issued a statement to say it will now consider the contents of the report and put in place a “comprehensive operational plan to address and deliver on all the matters raised”.

It said the publication was a “defining moment” for the industry and said it believed the industry had a positive future.


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