Racing promoter wants to take punt on Greyhound Stadium

Racing promoter wants to take punt on Greyhound Stadium

Harry Findlay

Ian Sawyer, left, the chairman of Save Oxford Stadium, and Mick Wheble, former stadium promotions manager, welcome the news

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter. Please call me on (01865) 425411

OXFORD Stadium could have a new saviour as one of the UK’s biggest professional gamblers has revealed that he wants to buy it.

Speaking exclusively to the Oxford Mail, millionaire racing track promoter Harry Findlay said he had the team in place to take it on.

But last night property agent Savills, acting on behalf of developer Galliard Homes, refused to confirm or deny it had now backtracked on plans to demolish the stadium, owned by the Greyhound Racing Association, to make way for 220 homes.

Professional punter Mr Findlay, who part owned legendary 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winning race horse Denman, said: “I want to see racing, dog racing, speedway, back before Christmas, if not then by the start of spring.”

The 52-year-old said: “I’ve got the team in place. Most of those who were let go at Oxford came to work for me in Coventry and I want to put them back there.

“It has the heritage status, they can’t knock it down, and I absolutely want to buy it.

“I’ve turned Coventry into one of the best tracks on the planet in less than 15 months, and Oxford stadium is in a better location.

“Coventry was a gamble, Oxford isn’t, but it needs someone with balls to take it on and I am that man.

“What makes Oxford a no-brainer is it is in the perfect state for someone to take over. The location is perfect and all the facilities are still there.

“I’ve known dog racing at Oxford since I was a teenager and had some of my most memorable moments at that stadium.”

Coventry Stadium was empty for three years before gambling maestro Mr Findlay stepped in last year.

Now racing runs three night a week at the rejuvenated venue, which greyhound trainer Jeff Sealey said would form a blueprint for Oxford.

Mr Sealey, who runs Bicester Greyhound Schooling track, designed the Coventry track and has visited Oxford Stadium recently to feed information back to Mr Findlay.

He said: “There is a great love of greyhound racing in Oxford, and the stadium is in the perfect position.

“It’s a bit hush hush at the moment but we are definitely interested and are waiting for our chance to move.”

In July the Oxford Mail revealed plans to demolish the stadium and build 220 homes had been put on ice.

Savills wrote to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in a bid to avoid carrying out impact tests.

Oxford City Council wrote to Mr Pickles for backing, insisting that the developers carried out an Environment Impact Assessment which could derail the plans.

The application has been listed as “forthcoming” on the council’s website but will not be discussed until official confirmation comes from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

City council leader Bob Price said a meeting would be taking place this month between himself and the potential buyers.

Mr Findlay’s team and representatives from Irish racing entrepreneur Paschal Taggart, who has also expressed an interest in buying the stadium will attend.

Former Oxford Stadium promotions manager Mick Wheble said: “There are two big-time players interested and it looks like racing could be back before long. It would be a huge boost to Oxford and this is what everyone wants to see.”

Deputy chairwoman of Blackbird Leys Parish Council and speedway fanatic Ann Booker said it would be a “dream” to see bike racing return.

She said: “My husband Paul proposed to me at the stadium, we had our reception there, and the place holds wonderful memories.

“I worked there for more than 30 years and it would be absolutely brilliant to see speedway return.”

Gavin Beckley of the Oxford Speedway Supporters club said: “Provided we have sympathetic owners, there is no reason why any business plan, including Mr Findlay’s, couldn’t make provision for speedway and make it successful. It would be fantastic to see it return.”

MP for Oxford East Andrew Smith said Galliard Homes should “do the right thing” and pull the application entirely.

He said: “It is great news for everyone who cares about the future of the stadium that with Harry Findlay we now have another successful and credible promoter who wants to run it for speedway, greyhound racing and all the other activities.

“It would be best all round if Galliard withdrew the housing application and sold or leased the stadium to one of the bidders who is really committed to making a success of it.”

Ian Sawyer, chairman for campaigners Save Oxford Stadium added: “This is great news for the group and a step in the right direction.

“From what we understand the owners are now willing to talk about selling rather than leasing or knocking down the stadium so that is positive.”

Neither the Greyhound Racing Association, Oxford City Council or DCLG responded to our requests for a comment.

WHO IS HE?

The “larger than life” manager of Coventry Stadium “Flash” Harry Findlay, 52, is one of the UK’s highest profile gamblers.
He says he has lost and won fortunes “in the blink of an eye” since he first placed bets on greyhounds as teenager in Slough.
Mr Findlay, above, grew up in Brighton. He said his affinity with betting at Oxford Stadium dates back to the 1970s.
Since then he has built an empire which stretches into horse-racing, and was co-owner of National Hunt champion racehorse Denman.
He claimed to have lost £2.5million on horses, but won £11.5m on other sports.
Coventry’s Brandon Stadium stopped trading in December 2009 but Mr Findlay took it on in 2012 and now runs three dog-racing nights each week.

Comments (3)

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1:41pm Tue 3 Sep 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

It takes two for a transaction to take place. The gentleman may well have the desire to buy, but it relies on Galliard wanting to sell.

Wait a decade and with the transient nature of the population of Oxford, there'll be a majority of people who won't know what the building was for.
It takes two for a transaction to take place. The gentleman may well have the desire to buy, but it relies on Galliard wanting to sell. Wait a decade and with the transient nature of the population of Oxford, there'll be a majority of people who won't know what the building was for. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: -7

7:14pm Tue 3 Sep 13

saddletramp says...

Harry the gob,talking out of his backside again.
The reason the greyhounds left,is because NOBODY went,if all the 1,000s of campaigners had actually attended occasionally,it might still be open.
They didn't,so it isn't.
I went to a BAGS meeting last year,i counted 15 punters,2 bookies,8 bar/tote staff,plus the people associated with the dogs.
FIFTEEN people !! is all this fuss really needed for 15 punters.
P.S.its free to get in at a BAGS meeting.
The only reason the stadium stayed open as long as it did,was because of the money received for showing BAGS meetings,that monet will not be around this time,so with even less money coming in,how is it going to be viable?
Harry the gob,talking out of his backside again. The reason the greyhounds left,is because NOBODY went,if all the 1,000s of campaigners had actually attended occasionally,it might still be open. They didn't,so it isn't. I went to a BAGS meeting last year,i counted 15 punters,2 bookies,8 bar/tote staff,plus the people associated with the dogs. FIFTEEN people !! is all this fuss really needed for 15 punters. P.S.its free to get in at a BAGS meeting. The only reason the stadium stayed open as long as it did,was because of the money received for showing BAGS meetings,that monet will not be around this time,so with even less money coming in,how is it going to be viable? saddletramp
  • Score: -57

9:17pm Wed 4 Sep 13

RoggieB says...

It would be a tragedy for many beautiful greyhounds if Oxford continues as a dog racing venue.

In June BBC Radio Coventry aired a programme in which greyhound welfare was discussed with Harry Findlay, the Greyhound Racing promoter at Coventry Stadium. Mr Findlay went to great lengths to proclaim his openness about the injury figures for his track and stated that he would be happy to share those details with anyone.

In view of the widespread concerns over greyhound welfare you'd have thought he would want to be as good as his word but e-mails requesting information have not been answered and someone unfortunate enough to have made contact by phone was allegedly told " If you think I am going to provide you with ammunition to try and bring us down, get f**ked".
It would be a tragedy for many beautiful greyhounds if Oxford continues as a dog racing venue. In June BBC Radio Coventry aired a programme in which greyhound welfare was discussed with Harry Findlay, the Greyhound Racing promoter at Coventry Stadium. Mr Findlay went to great lengths to proclaim his openness about the injury figures for his track and stated that he would be happy to share those details with anyone. In view of the widespread concerns over greyhound welfare you'd have thought he would want to be as good as his word but e-mails requesting information have not been answered and someone unfortunate enough to have made contact by phone was allegedly told " If you think I am going to provide you with ammunition to try and bring us down, get f**ked". RoggieB
  • Score: -1

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