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Blog - GBGB Senior Stipendiary Steward - Rules

Whether it's the Laws of football, cricket, tennis or rugby or the Rules of horse racing there is often debate over the merit of any Law or Rule and how it is applied by the respective authority be it umpire, referee, steward or governing Body. This debate is considered part of the fabric that makes supporting a team or individual in competition worthwhile.

Some of sports most memorable moments can center around key decisions about the Laws or Rules of a sport, did the ball cross the line in 1966? Was the ball out for John McEnroe in 1981? Should Australia have bowled underarm with the last delivery to New Zealand to win a match in 1981?

I would always consider that conversation and debate about any sport, in general, can be healthy. greyhound racing is no different. In my role as Senior Stipendiary Steward, I often find myself talking with owners, trainers and racecourse staff about the Rules of Racing, their meaning and their application in different circumstances. More often than not it comes from being on the receiving end of a perceived injustice.

Being the "go to" person regarding the Rules of Racing means I have to be definitive and consistent in my explanations.  The first step is to understand the Rule. I have always tried to approach the reading of any Rule with a balanced mindset. What is the Rule's purpose? Why has it been written this way? Who is the Rule aimed at? What is the Rule trying to prevent? Sometimes putting yourself in the person's shoes who might be on the receiving end of any Rule helps to understand it too. It definitely helps that I have a working knowledge of the areas covered by the Rules of Racing built up over years within this sport.

The Rules of Racing have been developed over many years and to a great extent have stood the test of time. There are some areas that require updating in line with current practices and technology being used today but there are many that are fine as they are. GBGB has a review process for the Rules of Racing and a committee that meets quarterly to discuss any issues and propose amendments for consideration by the independent Greyhound Regulatory Board (GRB).

I am a member of both the Rules of Racing Committee (RRC) and GRB and it is often my duty to facilitate and manage any proposed changes to the Rules of Racing. It is important to note that the RRC comprises of each stakeholder group who consult with their members about any proposals before they are finalised. These can sometimes be fiery meetings but that shows how much people care about this sport and their livelihoods. I would be far more concerned if people were not interested in Rule changes and didn’t question what was being proposed in detail; it keeps everyone honest.

GRB has stated that a detailed review of the Rules of Racing should take place every three to five years. This is now underway. Part of this review will be to look at how the Rules of Racing are presented. This concerns everything from the language used to the numbering and how sections of the Rules are defined. This will be a massive task but one that every regulator has a responsibility to undertake as part of good governance.

I have been meeting with representatives from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) recently as they are currently re-writing their own Rules. Interestingly, they are looking for a model similar to our very own Rules of Racing having moved away from a singular Rule book in 2009 during their last re-write. Sometimes things come full circle and we defiantly see that in our own industry too.

It is important not to make Rule changes as a knee-jerk reaction to something that might have happened as an isolated instance. "Hard cases make bad law" is a phrase our GRB Chair Robert Griffiths QC has often used. This phrase means that an extreme case is a poor basis for a Rule change that would cover a wider range of less extreme cases. In other words, a Rule change is better drafted for the average circumstance as this will be more common.

If anyone has any questions about the Rules of Racing, feel free to contact me, I'm always happy to help.

If you have any suggestions for changes to the Rules of Racing please contact your stakeholder representative. The RRC has never had a better representation of stakeholder groups than it has now and they would welcome your input.

Paul Illingworth

Senior Stipendiary Steward