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Stadium deal in doubt after potential backer pulls out
OXFORD Stadium faces further uncertainty after a potential major backer pulled out of the running to buy the greyhound racing venue.
Millionaire racing track promoter Harry Findlay is said to be no longer interested in investing in the site, despite earlier pledging to revive it.
A close associate of Mr Findlay said the businessman did not now think his plan was “sustainable”.
The news comes as the business partner of football manager Harry Redknapp confirmed he made two official bids to developer Galliard Homes for the East Oxford site, only for both to be turned down.
Bournemouth entrepreneur Nick Budimir, Mr Redknapp’s business partner, wants to re-establish greyhound racing, speedway and a dance school at the stadium.
He said: “We have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes and are frantically trying to keep our heads down and get on with this, which is why it has been quiet. I don’t do business in public.
“We made two offers to Galliard, the first in December, and I thought they would have accepted the second.
“There has been a tremendous level of support from the people of Oxford and we have made a promise to them that we will save the stadium.
“Galliard have been claiming that greyhound racing, speed-way and the dance school are all individually unviable.
“But our argument is to look at it as a community centre. It is all of those things, and we want to put bums on seats.”
Mr Budimir said he was waiting for the outcome of an appeal lodged by Galliard Homes against Oxford City Council’s refusal of planning permission for 220 homes on the Sandy Lane site.
He would not confirm the value of the bid but said he had instructed solicitors to inform owners Greyhound Racing Association (GRA) the money was there.
Following a decision by GRA to end racing in December 2012, Galliard Homes applied to demolish it and replace it with 220 homes.
Harry Findlay and Irish racing magnate Paschal Taggart then both announced their interest in restoring racing to the venue.
But yesterday Coventry Greyhound Racing general manager Bob Webb – a close associate of Mr Findlay – said the businessman would not be following up his interest.
He said Mr Findlay had also ended his involvement with Coventry Stadium and was “taking a break.”
Mr Webb said: “Harry won’t be pursuing the Oxford Stadium and is taking himself out of the game for a while.
“There is no one more passionate than Harry and he is absolutely gutted about this. He does feel that he has let a lot of people down.
“He put so much into Coventry, put more than a million of his own money in to make it the best track in the UK, and he was putting tens of thousands of pounds in for prize money every week.
“It simply wasn’t sustainable, despite his enthusiasm.”
Floyd Amphlett, the editor of Greyhound Star magazine and an associate of Mr Taggart said: “Paschal is still interested in Oxford.
“It’s not his main concern any longer but he is definitely still interested and there are several other parties we know of who are looking to buy.
“We were never quite sure of Harry’s intentions and the trouble is when a big character comes in and then pulls out it can make it difficult and people do think there is no future when that is not the case.”
Mr Budimir shares ownership in horses with Mr Redknapp and the pair both live near Bournemouth.
He said more news would be forthcoming following the result of Galliard’s appeal, and thanked all who had supported him.
In January, councillors at the committee listed seven reasons for refusing Galliard’s application.
Cheers greeted the decision to reject the plans.
But the planners and their agent Savills wasted little time and immediately submitted an appeal over the decision. It will now be down to the Government’s Planning Inspec-torate to decide the fate of the stadium, which was built in 1939.
No date has been set.