Latest News

GBGB RESPONSE TO GTA’S SMEAR CAMPAIGN

 

 

GBGB RESPONSE TO GTA’S SMEAR CAMPAIGN

 

SINCE his appointment as Chairman of the Greyhound Trainers’ Association (GTA) in July 2012,Mr Ricky Holloway has led an increasingly vitriolic and unjustified campaign against the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) and some of its Directors. During this time, Mr Holloway has publicly and privately made and then withdrawn, with apologies, a number of serious allegations against GBGB and its Directors only to reiterate and add to them as if no undertakings had been given.

 

An example of this occurred last summer when, following a series of discussions with the Chairman of GBGB, Mr Holloway again withdrew a number of allegations and wrote letters of apology to certain GBGB Directors, who were and are also Directors of the British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF).

 

Following this apparent cessation of these defamatory attacks, Mr Holloway was appointed to the main Board as a nominee of the GTA. Within weeks of this appointment, he had reneged on his undertakings and had published, or caused to have published, a further series of defamatory statements and unsupported allegations against GBGB and its Directors. He was also the signatory to a highly inaccurate and inflammatory submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee (Efra) inquiry into the welfare of racing greyhounds.

 

GBGB does not believe that the majority of licensed greyhound trainers support Mr Holloway’s actions or believe the unsubstantiated and insulting accusations he has made on behalf of the GTA. In this context, GBGB is aware that Mr Holloway has never faced re-election and that the individuals acting with Mr Holloway in his campaign against GBGB are not representative of greyhound trainers as a whole. In fact, of the number of persons actively orchestrating this invidious campaign against the GBGB, it is possible that Mr Holloway may be the only fully practising greyhound trainer.

 

At a time when GBGB should be putting all of its efforts into addressing the urgent need to resolve greyhound racing’s funding issues, a difficult task in which GBGB had hoped to have the support of all of the sport’s stakeholders, it is unfortunate in the extreme that the GTA has chosen to pursue its own agenda of disruption, disinformation and accusations based on rumour, third-person hearsay and ill-informed opinion rather than on credible evidence. In the judgement of the GBGB, the time has come for those trainers who do not support the GTA’s policies to make their positions known.

 

The latest in this unpalatable tirade of unsubstantiated and damaging criticisms, including allegations of corruption, arrived in the form of a letter dated 14th December from Mr Holloway to GBGB Chairman Tom Kelly, whom Mr Holloway had previously described on television and in the press as the only person capable of saving greyhound racing and someone he could work with.

 

In response to Mr Holloway’s outrageous behaviour (in particular, derogatory and damaging statements reported by the media), at a meeting of the GBGB Board on 10th December, Mr Holloway was asked to explain or withdraw a number of comments and allegations attributed to him that had appeared in recent issues of the Racing Post. He had been informed that this matter would be an agenda item at the December Board meeting in a letter from Mr Kelly dated 2nd December and had been invited to respond either before or at the meeting.  

 

Mr Holloway’s approach at the Board meeting was to attempt to avoid consideration of the agenda item by seeking to re-open discussion of an inquiry into incidents at Crayford in August 2015in which he (Mr Holloway) had been involved and which had been investigated and brought to a conclusion following a local inquiry at Crayford Stadium.   This inquiry, apart from having been concluded in October, was not relevant to the behaviour Mr Holloway was being asked by the Board to explain.

 

In the light of Mr Holloway’s failure to comply with the requirements of Article 42.3.2 of the GBGB Articles of Association which place a responsibility on Directors to facilitate the effective functioning of the Main Board in delivering good corporate responsibility for the sport of greyhound racing with constructive relations with fellow directors of the Main Board, its committees and nominated representative organisations, his inappropriate and repeated attempts to re-open the Crayford inquiry and his refusal to address the issues identified in the Chairman’s letter of 2nd December, the Board agreed that a resolution to remove him as a Director of GBGB would be tabled at the Board’s 28th January meeting.

 

Mr Holloway was told of this decision before he withdrew from the meeting and was informed that he would receive formal written notice of this resolution at least 28 days prior to the Board meeting. This notice was duly served within the required timescale and was accompanied by a further invitation to Mr Holloway either to justify or withdraw the comments referred to in the Chairman’s letter. As Mr Holloway had already made the Racing Post aware of the nature of this agenda item, GBGB later that day issued a short press release. Ironically given his own own tendency to speak to the media, Mr Holloway was critical of this action in his letter of 14th December.

 

Soon after receipt of Mr Holloway’s abusive letter, consideration of which by GBGB was impeded by the absence of key advisers due to the Christmas break, the GTA announced that Mr Holloway was taking sabbatical leave prior to undergoing surgery in early January. This information was followed by emails from the GTA’s General Secretary demanding an immediate response to Mr Holloway’s letter of 14th December, failing which copies of the letter would be sent to “the authorities”.

 

On 5th January, the Racing Post revealed that the date set for Mr Holloway’s surgery had been postponed until late January.

 

It is understood that Mr Holloway’s letter has been copied to Government Departments, bookmaking companies and journalists and it is also posted on the GTA’s website. This is a serious escalation of the GTA’s unjustified and disgraceful behaviour which has put GBGB in a position of having to find a way of rebutting the GTA’s allegations without inflicting collateral damage on the industry, including, in particular, the training profession, with which GBGB is eager to maintain and further develop good relations.

 

GBGB accepts that it is not unusual for governing bodies to be subjected to a degree of criticism, including from those they license and regulate, but the unsubstantiated accusations made by Mr Holloway and his cohorts have gone too far in that they are damaging to the credibility of greyhound racing and are consuming time and drawing on resources that would be better spent on addressing the sport’s real problems.

 

It has become clear during Mr Holloway’s short period as a Director of GBGB that, in spite of his stated willingness to adhere to the principles of collective responsibility and to comply with the requirements of GBGB’s Articles of Association and media policy, Mr Holloway is not prepared to conduct himself in a manner required of a Director of a company and, in particular, a governing body. Thus, he appears unable to engage with other Directors in democratic debate, to seek to influence decisions through quality of argument, and to accept majority decisions. Nor does he appear to comprehend that if an issue is one of principle, resignation becomes an option. Mr Holloway instead seeks to engage his fellow Board members in guerrilla warfare.

 

Accordingly, GBGB has decided to release this statement.   Legal action has been considered and will continue to be an option, but GBGB has no dispute with the vast majority of licensed trainers and does not wish (unless forced to do so) to seek a legal solution on which neither side is well placed to expend resource. GBGB also has no desire to involve GTA members in the costs that would be incurred if a solution had to be sought in the Courts.

 

Before turning to the detail of the points raised in Mr Holloway’s letter of 14th December, GBGB wishes to emphasise that this dispute involves only Mr Holloway and a few of his close associates and that the Directors of GBGB would be delighted to welcome to the Board a representative of trainers prepared to work as a member of a team whose aim is to preserve greyhound racing as an important sport and leisure activity.  This, however, is first and foremost a matter for the trainers themselves.

 

Point-by-point rebuttal of GTA allegations

 

The remainder of this statement constitutes GBGB’s detailed response to Mr Holloway in his letter of 14th December:

1. Mr Holloway states that he did not receive an employment contract, or similar, when he joined the GBGB Board.

Mr Holloway is a GTA nominee.  He is not a GBGB employee.

 2. Mr Holloway argues that in the absence of such arrangements (employment by GBGB), it is to the Chairman of GBGB that he should express his concern.          

Mr Holloway is correct. Over a period of time, he has raised a number of matters with the GBGB Chairman and all have been acted on.  Invariably, the absence of credible supporting evidence has been a problem. 

3. Mr Holloway alleges that the GBGB Chairman told him that the inquiry into events at Crayford in August in which he (Holloway) was involved had to be “conducted quickly and quietly because Ladbrokes (Crayford’s owner) are a big funder of the industry.”

This is untrue. Having reported Mr Holloway’s initial telephone call regarding alleged events at Crayford to the Senior Stipendiary Steward, the Chairman was bound to leave any further action to the Director of Regulation (and his investigating team), who is responsible for conducting inquiries following the receipt of complaints prior to possible referral to the disciplinary procedure. The Chairman may at some other time and in a different context have referred to Ladbrokes (and other leading bookmaking companies) as an important source of funds. He did not, however, have any further discussion with Mr Holloway regarding the Crayford inquiry, in spite of the latter’s repeated attempts to involve him, and he did not link the two issues.

4. Mr Holloway raises a number of concerns regarding the selection of the company SSS to install a running surface at Towcester

GBGB does not appoint contractors and played no part in the selection of SSS.   Similarly, neither GBGB, nor the British Greyhound Racing Fund, made any financial contribution to this project.  Thus, there was no requirement for any Director of either body to declare an interest.  Mr Holloway may be confusing Towcester with other track projects carried out elsewhere by SSS and part funded by the BGRF.  We are satisfied that the Director in question made appropriate declarations of interest in those cases. GBGB has a signed statement from Mr Page in which refutes the claims made by Mr Holloway concerning work carried out at Towcester. Mr Page said; “I am annoyed that a private email has been aired in public and used to misconstrue the situation at Towcester and denigrate the builders who worked wonders to get Towcester open on time.”

5. Mr Holloway raises concerns about capital grants

The BGRF awards capital grants pursuant to its own formal Grant Policy and Procedures, which are transparent and open to scrutiny.  Capital grant applications must conform to the BGRF Policy criteria and are subject to formal audit processes.  The BGRF has confirmed that due process has been followed regarding all capital grants awarded and that, where necessary, appropriate declarations of interest have been made.

6. Mr Holloway raises concerns about sand procurement for tracks and refers to a meeting he had with the GBGB

Again, this issue involves unfounded allegations that Mr Holloway earlier withdrew and promised not to repeat.  In his letter, he refers to a meeting he and others had with the now Chairman of GBGB in the summer of 2013 when the issue of track surfaces was raised.  In fact, this was almost two years before Mr Kelly’s appointment as GBGB Chairman, long before any consideration had been given to the possibility of him occupying this post.   At that time, Mr Kelly was Chairman of BAGS and the BGRF and had been persuaded (largely by Mr Holloway) to assume the role of mediator in an effort to improve relations between Mr Holloway and GBGB.  His attempts at mediation failed, largely due to the intransigence of Mr Holloway. 

Under this heading, Mr Holloway resurrects complaints previously directed at the GBGB Director responsible for track inspections.  This Director, who has been much maligned by the GTA without any credible supporting evidence being produced, last summer received a letter from Mr Holloway in which he (Mr Holloway) withdrew and apologised for a number of allegations he accepted had been unfounded.  Unfortunately, Mr Holloway has elected to disregard his written undertakings by reiterating those allegations. 

Mr Holloway refers in this section of his letter to the Racing Manager at Towcester, Mr Chris Page.  Mr Page is said by Mr Holloway to have accused the GBGB’s track inspector of impropriety.   The GBGB’s Director of Regulation, a former Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent, was informed in a telephone conversation with Mr Page that he (Page) had told Mr Holloway what he felt Mr Holloway wanted to hear. 

 7. A significant part of Mr Holloway’s letter is headed “GBGB operation – areas of concern under Mr Kelly’s chairmanship.”

a) The GBGB Chairman declined an invitation to visit the non-licensed training track at Dunham.

The Chairman has no obligation to visit a non-GBGB licensed track.

b) Mr Holloway is dissatisfied with the way an inquiry into events that took place at Crayford in August 2015 was conducted.

The investigation into events at Crayford last Augustwas dealt with by way of a local inquiry conducted by the Senior Stipendiary Steward. This inquiry was independent of the GBGB Board, which cannot re-open a completed inquiry; neither can any inquiry finding be reversed or otherwise influenced by the GBGB Chairman or Directors. The Chairman agrees that he briefly saw CCTV footage from Crayford that contained images of Mr Holloway. For the avoidance of doubt, neither the Chairman nor the Chief Executive played any part in the Crayford investigation, inquiry or outcome.

c) Mr Holloway questions the decision to take no action in respect of vans used to transport greyhounds which, he felt, did not comply with GBGB requirement

Investigation of Mr Holloway’s complaint reveals that the van of one trainer at Crayford remains not fully compliant with GBGB requirements. The trainer in question has been issued with a final warning.

 

d)  Mr Holloway takes issue with the Chairman for referring to the GTA Committee as “clowns having taken over the circus”. Mr Holloway mentions leading trainer Mr Charlie Lister OBE

 

This comment was made by Mr Kelly before he became GBGB Chairman and following considerable provocation. The remark was not intended to include Mr Charlie Lister.

 

e) Mr Holloway complains that there has been “no tangible

progress published” on funding from bookmakers since Mr Kelly’s appointment.

 

This is correct. Details of confidential discussions have not been published or otherwise publicised. This is normal protocol when sensitive negotiations are taking place.

f) Mr Holloway complains that an item included on GBGB Board agenda for November 2015 regarding the appointment of GTA nominees to some GBGB sub-committees was deferred pending a private discussion between Mr Holloway and the Chairman. He states that there has been no progress on GTA nominations or explanations as to why certain individuals might be considered unsuitable.

At the time of this Board meeting, Mr Holloway and the Chairman had discussed the issue of representation on a number of occasions. Each of these discussions ended with Mr Holloway being informed (or reminded) why some of the GTA nominees were unsuitable; in one case a non-vet had been proposed for the Veterinary Sub-Committee and in another the operator of the irresponsible website Greyhoundscene had been nominated for the Marketing Committee – a man who has a public record as a hoaxer.

 

On several occasions, Mr Holloway undertook to reconsider and re-submit the GTA’s nominations. Each time, the same names reappeared on his resubmitted list. When the agenda for the Board meeting in question was prepared, there was an expectation (perhaps naïve) that having become a Board Director, Mr Holloway would submit a properly revised list of nominations. However, when the list eventually arrived it was again unchanged. Thus, in the hope of avoiding confrontation, the Chairman suggested that he and Mr Holloway should discuss the matter privately, a proposition to which Mr Holloway indicated his agreement. It should be noted that while GTA representation on GBGB sub-committees may be desirable, it is not an entitlement and is subject to agreement within the sub-committees themselves.

g) Mr Holloway claims that he was given only one and a half days notice of the date of the GBGB’s September 2015 Board meeting and that he was suspended from the October meeting for “carrying out (his) statutory duty of collecting welfare abuse evidence”.

There appears to be some confusion on Mr Holloway’s part as to what happened and when. Following the decision to invite Mr Holloway to become a GBGB Director, a meeting took place at his request between himself and the Chairman at which Mr Holloway was provided with dates for all of the remaining 2015 meetings. This meeting occurred some weeks before the date of the first Board meeting he was eligible to attend and, in fact, he was reported in the press as looking forward to it. He spoke by telephone to the Chairman on the day before the meeting, confirming that he would attend, but then emailed his apologies only a few hours prior its commencement. The reason he gave was that he could not find anyone to look after his greyhounds. No mention was made of insufficient notice.

 

Mr Holloway’s directorship was temporarily suspended (for one meeting) because he was the subject of a GBGB investigation following the lodging of potentially serious complaint against him concerning his behaviour at Crayford Stadium in August 2015.   In such circumstances, suspension would be regarded as correct practice by any responsible governing body.

 

January 2016