After an absence of nearly a decade, greyhound racing will return to the Oxford Stadium.
Kevin Boothby, who has become an increasingly important figure in the sport after taking up the ownership of tracks at Towcester and Henlow, will now oversee the return of the Oxfordshire venue after taking out a ten-year lease from owners Gaillard Homes.
It will mark the first time that the stadium has hosted the dogs since 2012.
Boothby has already revealed his plans for the track, which could see as much as £25 million invested. Alongside the re-establishment of greyhound racing, there are hopes that speedway will also make a return, alongside a boxing club, rugby pitch and potentially a dance school.
He was naturally excited about all of the possibilities when speaking to BBC Radio Oxford.
“We’re delighted we’ve got it over the line now, and we can look to the future and get greyhound racing back there and we’ll also look at other things.
“It’s so important that we’ve got it back, and fair play to the council and the local community – we need to deliver them a fantastic business for the local area and create a lot of jobs.”
Greyhound Racing On the Up?
After a torturous few years, it’s nice for all involved in greyhound racing to finally have some positive news.
The return of Oxford Stadium means that there are now 23 active greyhound venues in the UK, from Brighton to Sunderland and from Swindon to Great Yarmouth.
It’s a long way from the heyday of the sport, when some 40 million people each year would head to their local dog track and cheer their bets home – making it the second most-attended sport in the land back in the 1940s, with more than 100 venues in operation.
This started to tail off in the 1960s, and then in the seventies the sport was in freefall with dozens of track closures.
That theme has continued ever since, and there are a number of reasons that have been attributed to the decline – from dwindling interest and popularity to the fact that many inner city tracks, and those in urbanised areas, are prime real estate for property developers to build on.
That was the case in 2020 when Manchester’s Belle Vue Stadium, the UK’s first major dog track north of London, closed after more than 50 years of action. A property firm purchased the site after the Arena Racing Company said there was no longer a ‘business case’ to operate the venue.
There were once 15 dog tracks in London, but now there are just two – Romford Stadium and Crayford Stadium, with the other 13 all falling by the wayside, including the spiritual homes of the sport in Wimbledon and Walthamstow.
Poole was another recent casualty in the south, while in 2020 one of the most popular tracks in the Midlands – Peterborough – also closed its doors for the final time, citing the financial pressures of the last year and the lack of paying punters on the premises.
Betting firms are starting to invest more in stadium sponsorship, which will help, and there is still plenty of revenue taken from online bets. The demand for greyhound racing is there, it’s just a question of getting bums on seats in the venues now.
Hopefully the revitalisation of Oxford Stadium will prove to be a big success….