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‘We didn’t try to neglect stadium’
OXFORD stadium boss Clive Feltham has denied the facility has been deliberately run down to pave the way for housing.
The Greyhound Racing Association managing director blamed the impending closure on the loss of a “lucrative” Friday morning race meet.
But he dismissed claims that the GRA, which is owned by Risk Capital Partners which in turn has links with developer Galliard Homes, had been running it badly in order to destroy its viability as a business.
He said: “It’s a beautiful facility, you can hardly say it’s been run into the ground, it’s been operating profitably for a long time.”
He said the venue could no longer turn a profit without its Friday daytime “BAGS” meeting.
The loss of the meet was announced last month, and the GRA has confirmed that the stadium would close on December 29.
Staff at the stadium had thought the facility would stay open until approval was granted for Galliards 225-home development proposal for the site.
But the GRA announced last Friday that 60 part-time staff and 20 full-time employees will lose their jobs just after Christmas when the venue closes its gates for the final time.
Mr Feltham said: “We lost a BAGS contract, which was a very lucrative contract and that’s put us into a position where we wouldn’t make any money at the track.
“As a company, we don’t subsidise our tracks, they need to make money, so it was with great sadness that we decided we had to stop racing at the end of the year.”
He said the stadium was running profitably with the BAGS contract, but that its loss was the “substantive reason” behind the decision to close.
He also accepted that the loss of the BAGS contract was likely to have happened as a result of uncertainty about the stadium’s future.
He said: “Admittedly, looking for alternative planning wouldn’t have helped the situation, but it’s our owner’s prerogative to say we think it’s worth a lot more as something else, that’s the way the world works.
“The greatest loss is going to be for the staff and trainers, and they’re the people I feel for the most.”
He confirmed the widespread rumours that the GRA’s parent company Risk Capital Partners and Galliard Homes, which wants to build homes on the site of the stadium, are linked.
East Oxford MP and Blackbird Leys resident Andrew Smith said: “This confirmation of a link between the GRA who own the stadium and Galliard Homes, underlines the massive financial vested interest they have in redeveloping the site rather than running it as a stadium.
“People with an in-depth knowledge of stadium management and the betting industry have told me that the reason the BAGS contract was lost was the uncertainty over the Stadium’s future which the GRA themselves have created.
“Support for the campaign to save the stadium is really taking off. “The Save Oxford Greyhound Stadium Facebook group, launched only a couple of days ago, already has over 3,000 members.”
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