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Monday 22 September 2014

Historic greyhound stadium may be sold to pay debt

Conor Kane

Published 08/07/2014 | 02:30

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Bord na gCon is in debt of around €21m and faces “very significant” challenges to become financially stable
Bord na gCon is in debt of around €21m and faces “very significant” challenges to become financially stable

THE sale of the historic Harold's Cross greyhound stadium in Dublin and cutting back of fixtures at under-performing tracks are among the recommendations aimed at helping Bord na gCon get its finances under control.

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The measures are part of a review prepared by Indecon International Consultants who were appointed by Minister of State Tom Hayes to look into certain aspects of the governance and finances of Bord na gCon, which runs greyhound racing in this country.

Bord na gCon is in debt of around €21m and faces "very significant" challenges to become financially stable, according to the report.

But these are "achievable" as it has the capacity to dispose of surplus assets and to "calibrate" prizemoney by reducing the amount of race meetings at some tracks.

Indecon want the board to start disposing of assets in the coming year and complete the programme over three years, with potential sales to be considered including the Harold's Cross track – one of just two greyhound racing venues in Dublin – as well the board's former head office in Henry Street, Limerick; land in Cork and a site at Meelick in Limerick.

Meanwhile, the consultants have called for the amount of races at "poorly-performing stadia" to be reduced to "sustainable levels" as "a matter of urgency".

This will, they say, result in a reduction and prizemoney as well as savings in operating costs.

The board said last night it will study the review in detail and submit a "comprehensive operational plan" to the minister within three months. It did not comment on individual recommendations.

Turnover at Bord na gCon has slumped by over 55pc since 2006, from €63.5m to €28.2m last year, with major falls in gate receipts, tote betting, bookmaker receipts and catering and corporate income.

"The scale of the decline is dramatic," Indecon say in their report, adding that while the rate of decline has slowed it was still not reversed last year and this is "of concern," particularly as reports from the early months of 2014 show no change in that pattern.

Income

The most important source of income to Bord na gCon is tote betting turnover and this went from over €50m in 2006 to just €20.9m.

Last year the board received just over €11m from the government's Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund which covered the operating deficit of more than €10m.

The most controversial of the review's recommendations is likely to be the sale of the Harold's Cross track, most likely for property development.

"The reality ... is that there is a danger that unless asset disposals are made, the board will not have the necessary resources to develop the sector."

"The timing of these asset sales should be made in a manner which maximises the value for Bord na gCon and should take account of planning/zoning issues and market developments," Indecon say.

Irish Independent

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