Greyhounds’ last stand

Opposition has begun to mobilise after the Oxford Greyhound Stadium saw its last race on the 29th December, when operator the Greyhound Racing Association (GRA) announced its closure.

The proposed closure of the ground in Blackbird Leys has been adamantly opposed by a group of campaigners, including both students and local residents.

The Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith has also spoken against the move, commenting: “There is huge public support to save the Oxford Stadium.  It’s a great facility for the whole community.

“We need to get as many people as possible signed up in support of the campaign, and do everything we can to try to secure the Stadium’s future.”

More than 3,300 supporters have joined a Facebook campaign to save the stadium, while about 1,700 people have signed an online petition.

One member of the Facebook group commented on the page: “This ‘play’ is surely akin to legalised murder or defilement by the so called GRA and their masters. Gaining wealth at the cost of normal people can surely not be justified in any society?”

Awareness of the issue has also been raised by St Catz JCR President Marcus Stevenson, who sent an email out to his JCR at the beginning of this year encouraging activism to resist the move:

“It is time to mobilise; shake off your post Christmas blues, set aside any work and man your stations. We mean business.”

He added: “It’s a great shame to see the much-loved racing track closing down in Blackbird Leys. From a resident’s perspective, it seems to be part of an on-going trend of dwindling services outside of the Oxford centre.

“But, for students, the closure of the track means another fun, different and local experience goes under. Another blow to anyone looking to escape the ‘Oxford bubble’.”

He concluded: “I really hope students sign up to the ‘Save Our Stadium’ campaign and show support for the wider Oxford community.”

It is estimated that about 300 jobs are either directly or indirectly linked to the stadium. Staff working at the track were informed of the closure by the Greyhound Racing Association in November.

MP Andrew Smith justified his support for the ‘Save Oxford Stadium’ petition by commenting:

“There is a big range of activities at the Stadium.  In addition to greyhound racing, there is go-karting, dance, tae kwon do, fitness and motorcycle training.  The stadium facilities are also used for social events. There is a massive fan base for getting speedway back, too.”

He continued: “If we lose the Stadium, we will lose facilities we will never get back, and all the jobs which go with them.

“We are certain that with committed ownership and the right promotion, the great facilities at the Stadium could be used much more than they have been recently, providing enjoyable recreation for thousands.”