By Emma Butler
Coronavirus has had an effect on every industry, so that of course has included the greyhound racing industry.
The word ‘coronacoaster’ has been bandied about a lot on social media to describe the highs and lows of the journey we are all on, and it’s one that could also be used to describe the developments within the greyhound racing industry over the last few weeks.
Greyhound racing was suspended when we went into lockdown, and it was later announced that greyhound racing would not return at all to at least one stadium, with delayed returns to others.
Peterborough Greyhound Stadium posted an announcement on their Facebook page on May 19th stating that they would no longer operate as a greyhound racing facility.
In the statement, Peterborough Greyhounds said: “We are an evening racing venue and rely heavily on income from customers attending the venue to eat, drink and bet (on our Tote) to survive…….the long-term viability of continuing to trade from the site as a greyhound racing stadium is unsustainable.”
The statement also says: “This is a decision that has not been taken lightly and has been taken in conjunction with and on the advice of our accountants. Long term, we are advised that the site cannot make sufficient return to continue operating profitable as a greyhound racing stadium.”
The announcement finished by saying that the company remains active and are looking at other opportunities.
With declining numbers of people attending greyhound racing, we hope more racing stadiums will follow Peterborough’s lead and look for alternative opportunities and means of income, that do not involve using animals as a commodity and compromising their welfare.
Could it be possible that the coronavirus pandemic might be the tipping point for greyhound racing altogether? Could this be the beginning of the end to greyhound racing in the UK?
Although some racing has resumed ‘behind closed doors’, not all stadiums are currently racing. In May, Poole Stadium in Dorset announced it was unable to operate during the period of racing behind closed doors due to financial arrangements. It is not clear when or if this stadium will reopen.
Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester returned to hosting greyhound racing on the 3rd June, but later announced a temporary suspension of racing there. Insider Sport reported that it was as a result of it being uneconomical to operate fixtures at Belle Vue under the ‘closed door’ policy.
With Belle Vue already marked for demolition to make way for housing, is it possible that Manchester has seen the end of greyhounds being exploited for so-called ‘sport’?
Other greyhound tracks are feeling the pressure of those campaigning to bring an end to the cruelty. A petition calling on Swindon Borough Council to exclude the greyhound track from the Abbey Stadium redevelopment reached the target of 1,500 signatures needed to trigger a council debate.
Unfortunately the news wasn’t so positive in Oxford, where Oxford City Council adopted the Oxford Local Plan 2036, which would grant planning permission for the revival of the greyhound racing stadium unless it was proved unviable. We hope the falling number of audiences at greyhound racing worldwide, and the closure of other stadiums in the UK, helps to prove the unviability of a return to greyhound racing in Oxford.
Of course, the closure of tracks and suspension of racing could mean a potentially large number of greyhounds suddenly finding themselves in need of new homes. There are already more dogs discarded by the racing industry each year than rescue spaces available. Surely dogs cannot be allowed to suffer or die as a result of ‘financially unviable’ racing stadiums? It is indeed a truly scary time.