GREYHOUND racing crowds fell sharply by over 20% last year, but the Irish Greyhound Board believes that the worst of the decline may be over.
Announcing annual figures yesterday, the Board also confirmed a drop in its annual surplus from €5m to €1m, but said that was primarily due to the reduction in the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund (by €1.6m) and redundancy costs (€1.4m).
There was a €3.9m profit from Tote betting operations, down 15% on 2008.
The IGB maintained prize money in 2009 and pointed out that the value to the local economy of keeping the current number of greyhounds in training each year is around €257m.
“This has been a difficult past twelve months across every sector of Irish society and our industry has borne the brunt of the general reduction in consumer spending,” IGB chief executive Adrian Neilan said.
“There is no question that 2010 will be another difficult year but we take heart from the fact that the decline in attendance was less in the second half of 2009 than in the first six months. We have taken action to protect our grassroots prize money structure and that has been welcomed by the industry. There are reductions in the contributions to prize money at the upper end of the scale, as well as further cost savings in the operating structure of the sport. These are prudent measures in order to manage our reduced income in a manner which will leave us secure for the future.”
He said the 13% reduction in central funding from the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund was “a very serious blow. The severity of the cutback means that nearly 25% has been cut from this essential funding in the last three budgets.”
He warned that any further reduction in central funding would inevitably have long lasting negative implications for the industry.
On staff costs, Mr Neilan said that the Board had absorbed over €2m in cuts last year through redundancies, “a painful but necessary process”, and he warned: “This is an area that we will continue to pursue in 2010 to ensure we are as efficient as possible whilst allowing this industry to progress.”
He said the Board was also implementing a reduction in race nights in the quieter, early months of the year and will review other areas of operations in order to make total savings that will account for reductions.
“But there have been high points through the year. We saw record attendance throughout an exceptional Irish Derby campaign and we look forward to welcoming a brand new sponsor of this, our blue riband event of the year.
“Work has progressed well on the new Limerick Greyhound Stadium which will be a flagship for sport throughout the south west and, in terms of confidence, on a national level. We have received a significant level of interest in the naming rights to this stadium and we look forward to selecting a strong brand that will be appropriate for this development, and which will gain enormously from association with the Stadium.”
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