BAGS chairman Tom Kelly has admitted that doubts surrounding Oxford Stadium’s future led to the shock announcement that the track would lose its Friday BAGS meeting from January 1.
The loss of the fixture, understood to be worth around £500,000 a year, has increased fears that the stadium could close with Galliard Homes seeking planning permission to build at the Greyhound Racing Association-owned track. Kelly was at Oxford yesterday for the latest leg in the BAGS Track Championship against Swindon and Poole.
And before presenting prizes to the race winners, he explained: “It was purely a business decision.
“We have no issues with Oxford or the people who work there, but the fact remains that the parent company has said that the track may be developed and we need to plan for that possibility and made a decision to move the Friday elsewhere.”
Kelly, who lives at Windsor, refused to be drawn on the prospects of Oxford’s Sunday BAGS meeting or to comment on whether racing could return on Friday mornings in future years.
But he added: “I am concerned about the future of the track. It is obviously difficult for the people here and I have every sympathy with them.
“It is a nicely-appointed little stadium and through the loss of other tracks I think it is my local track. I quite like it here and I am sorry it has happened.”
Oxford’s Friday meeting will go to Kinsley, near Pontefract.
Greyhound enthusiasts at the track admitted to being dismayed by the loss of their meeting – which will leave Oxford with just three fixtures a week, on Friday and Saturday nights and the Sunday BAGS.
Cowley owner Jonathon Miles, 32, who has 15 hounds in training with Angie Kibble at Bampton, enjoyed success with Absinthe yesterday, but is now facing up to reduced opportunities.
He said: “It will mean I get less runs, and it will cost more money to run the dogs.
“They are like my own pets and no matter how slow they are I would not go selling them.
“It is a shame because there is no need for it to go. It is just the pople running it, and winding it down.”
His views were echoed by Bob Charlett, 60, from Headington, who has hounds with Richard Baker at Marston.
“It will make a lot of difference to the kennel bill because I will not get the run money,” he said. Lloyd Barrett, 22, Rose Hill, a kennel hand with Baker, meanwhile, fears for his livelihood.
“It will be such a shame,” he said. “I will lose my job with the Bakers if it shuts down completely.”