As the fate of Manchester’s much adored Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium hangs in the balance, we spoke to Star Recruitment’s Simon Banks, who detailed the impact residential development is having on the sport, as well as how significant the loss of Belle Vue would be to UK Greyhound Racing.
InsiderSport: Belle Vue was the first purpose built greyhound track in the UK – what could its closure mean for the greyhound racing industry?
Simon Banks: The loss of Belle Vue would be a huge blow to greyhound racing in the UK as it is the only remaining track in the North West. There is a massive potential audience for the sport in Manchester and its environs and we know that when a track closes very few of the regular attendees go to other tracks, but rather they drift away from the sport.
InsiderSport: What steps can Greyhound racing take to attract a younger audience, and how pivotal is this in terms of securing the sport’s future?
Simon Banks: There is a false narrative that track closures are linked to declining interest. Attendances are actually holding up and I note that Romford’s Boxing Day meeting is sold out. Most recent track closures have been for residential development, not because of lack of interest. Greyhound racing is an affordable leisure option that appeals to young people in particular.
InsiderSport: In terms of job losses how devastating would the potential closure of Belle Vue be for the sport as a whole?
Simon Banks: There are around 200 people who work directly or indirectly at Belle Vue and its closure would be keenly felt. There are 17 trainers attached to the track and some of those would find travel to another track impractical. There would also be an impact on the businesses in the Manchester area that supply the track.
InsiderSport: Last year, track veteran Roy Nicol described the housing proposal for the location as “a monstrous time bomb”, what do you make of the council’s plans?
Simon Banks: I understand that there is a nationwide housing crisis and that there is demand for housing but there is a danger that people have somewhere to live, but nowhere to enjoy their leisure time. I’m sure there are many other suitable sites for development in the Greater Manchester area and to lose a much used and much loved facility would detract from the Manchester leisure offer as a whole.