7:00am Saturday 19th October 2013
By Freddie Whittaker
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Oxford Greyhound Stadium have called for an intervention from the Irish Government.
Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) owns debt relating to Risk Capital Partners – owner of the stadium – and has been involved in talks about its future.
Now former Oxford Stadium promotions manager Mick Wheble has written to Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, and said he received a positive response.
He added: “I have appealed to the Irish Government and received a very nice response saying they have asked the finance minister to look into it. NAMA controls the debt, so it can tell Risk Capital what to do with the site.
“It’s very positive, and what I liked about it was I made a direct appeal to the Prime Minister and had a lovely reply to say the PM had looked at it, understood my concerns and has passed it on.”
The stadium closed on December 29 last year after the Greyhound Racing Association said it could no longer run as a profitable business.
The stadium was owned by the Greyhound Racing Association until the company was bought by Risk Capital Partners several years ago. NAMA now owns debt relating to a loan given to the GRA by the Irish Government. The closure came after Galliard Homes unveiled plans to build up to 220 homes on the site in Blackbird Leys, a plan opposed by the community and a 3,400-strong Facebook campaign group.
Although NAMA does n ot directly own the stadium, it does have an amount of control over its future because it owns debt previously owed to the Irish Government by the stadium’s owners.
Mr Wheble said the fact that the four other stadiums owned by Risk Capital,Hall Green and Perry Barr in Birmingham, Belle Vue in Manchester and Wimbledon Stadium are still open, proved Oxford could have a future as a racing track.
He added: “The four tracks have been put out on 15-year leases. I suppose because Oxford was already closed it wasn’t included.”
In a response email to Mr Wheble, Mr Kenny’s assistant private secretary David King said: “The Taoiseach has noted the points you raised. He has copied your correspondence to his colleague Michael Noonan T.D., Minister for Finance for his consideration.”
The positive response from Mr Kenny’s office has been greeted with joy among campaigners.
Save Oxford Stadium chairman Ian Sawyer said: “It is positive news. Anyone willing to talk about the sale of the stadium is welcome.
“Our goal is to get the stadium back to the public of Oxford, and if this helps that it’s very good news.”
Mr Noonan and NAMA were unavailable for comment when contacted by the Oxford Mail.
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