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Prize money critics need to look at facts

I have found the chairman's role very interesting in many ways, but also difficult in others. It certainly takes up much more time than I had originally imagined.

On the positive side, it has given me the opportunity to see all the best dogs run and to meet all the top owners, trainers and sponsors.

The negative side has been the amount of effort that is required to unite all stakeholders for the common good of the industry.

Much of the criticism has been about the prize money. This year we provided all tracks with a 20pc increase in their race grants compared to 2012. That is a fact.

There is a feeling around that the board reduced the number of races to save money, but this is untrue.

On a more positive note, I am delighted that the Clonmel and Youghal developments have been completed and we've got good value for money. The jobs were needed in both cases.

Another very positive development was the staging of the Night of Stars last year.

It is important to recognise the best in class and it provided a great finish to the year. I am looking forward to the launch of this year's event.

We are hoping that the new Junior Minister for Agriculture will be appointed very soon.

As the Junior Minister is the person with responsibility for the greyhound industry, this is very important for us, and it should also bring about the release of our five-year plan which, among other things, will introduce new structures to run the business and the opportunity to totally revamp industry regulations.

I have had a lot of feedback from genuine people about the need to revise the annual calendar and I can see the need to bolster the early summer list of events where open racers have so few opportunities in advance of the Derby.

I believe there is scope to bring the Laurels back to its summer slot, but there doesn't appear to be an appetite to make the change.

Despite that, I have little doubt that we will have magnificent Derby, Laurels and St Leger competitions this year.

Talking of the Derby, I would like to welcome the new sponsors, ETS, on board.

The €240,000 prize fund in these difficult times is fantastic.

Having been so much involved with Kilkenny Track over the years and spent many enjoyable evenings of quality racing, it would be my wish to see the stadium developed.

Indeed, I would like to see all the so-far undeveloped tracks receiving facelifts, but I feel that Kilkenny is a special case as it is such a buzzing city.

TON-UP JACK

Congratulations to legendary Nenagh greyhound owner Jack Powell on celebrating his 100th birthday yesterday. A true legend!

* Phil Meaney, a native of Leighlinbridge in County Carlow, has been chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board since early 2011.

Irish Independent