The world of greyhound racing is in mourning after it as announced in a shock statement on Thursday that the track at Towcester has gone into administration.
The home of the Greyhound Derby is widely considered to be the sport’s flagship venue, and the latest news is another blow for an industry that has suffered from repeated issues in the past few years.
A spokesman has confirmed that all future meetings at the track have been cancelled with immediate effect.
The news was released to track employees, as well as trainers, in an email late on Wednesday evening. Chris Page, racing manager at Towcester, said: “The first I knew of it was when the groundsman told me Thursday’s trials had been cancelled.
“On querying why I was told of the news, so I set about letting trainers know as soon as possible.
“I received a phone call from [Towcester chief executive] Kevin Ackerman this morning informing me that the shareholders had decided not to further fund Towcester racecourse.”
Page continued to say that Ackerman had been working to put together a rescue package, but after failing to do so the administrators were called in.
“At this stage I am not sure whether the administrators are trying to find a new company to run the business, or whether the whole site is up for sale,” Page said.
“I know of at least one rescue package which is being drawn up to run the track on a more business-like footing, however with the current shortage of greyhounds due to excess racing I’m sure trainers will be offered alternative tracks to race at sooner rather than later.”
The Racing Post also managed to get a few words from Greyhound Board of Great Britain managing director Mark Bird, who said: “We have not been officially informed of the situation at Towcester and are endeavouring to clarify the position.”
“Clearly our main focus will be on ensuring the welfare of the greyhounds based at the track, along with the trainers involved.”
Grey Skies Ahead for UK Greyhound Racing
These are grim times for UK greyhound racing, with Towcester’s woes coming a year or so after the famous Wimbledon dog track closed its doors for the final time.
That stadium was sold to developers after 89 years of racing, with property prices in and around the capital just one of the reasons cited for its demise.
The Guardian’s investigation into the dogs revealed that audience figures had reached an all-time low in 2017, with just two million people turning out compared to tens of millions in the sport’s heyday. Today, there are just 23 active tracks in the country – pending Towcester’s future.
And the plight of another household name is up in the air.
The Manchester Evening News reported back in July that the future of the Belle Vue track is far from safe after developers submitted plans to build on the land.
Belle Vue was the first purpose built dog track in the country back in 1926, and still offers a active schedule of paid and free meetings every week.
Owned by the Crown Oil Pensions Fund and leased back to the Greyhound Racing Association (GRA), a representative of Crown Oil denied there was an agreement of sale in place – but did not rule one out in the future.
“I think we’ve always been happy with the rent and what’s going on [at Belle Vue],” Andrew Greensmith said. When quizzed if a deal had been reached with developers, his disconcertingly vague response was ‘not as far as I know’.