AFTER an almost decade-long absence, greyhound racing is set to return to Oxford.

Cowley’s Oxford Stadium hosted its last race in December 2012, but will finally welcome back visitors on August 26.

Speedway returned to the stadium in April following a 15-year absence, while a bar at the site named in honour of the late Oxford United legend Joey Beauchamp opened this week.

The return of greyhound racing is the most controversial aspect of the Sandy Lane venue’s reopening, with a leading animal rights charity claiming last month that the majority of people in Oxfordshire are against the sport.

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However, racing will be held on Friday and Saturday evenings initially, stadium bosses have announced.

More fixtures will be added during the week, at a later date.

Kevin Boothby, Oxford Stadium managing director, expects more than 2,000 punters to be trackside on opening night and has increased the venue’s capacity to cope with demand.

“Subject to the completion of a Greyhound Board of Great Britain inspection this month, Oxford Stadium will proudly open its doors to racegoers in August,” he said.

Oxford Mail: Kevin Boothby, managing director at Oxford StadiumKevin Boothby, managing director at Oxford Stadium

“We’ve experienced an overwhelming response for the return of speedway, and we forecast similar demand when greyhound racing returns to Sandy Lane.

“We are leaving no stone unturned concerning the redevelopment of our racing facilities so we can guarantee welfare standards at Oxford Stadium will meet world-leading standards.

“Following a challenging period for the sport and hospitality sectors off the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s really pleasing to unlock greyhound racing’s return and provide a timely boost to Oxford and the wider community.”

Oxford Mail: The penultimate race day at Oxford Stadium before greyhound racing stopped. Picture: Andrew WalmsleyThe penultimate race day at Oxford Stadium before greyhound racing stopped. Picture: Andrew Walmsley

Boothby secured a 10-year lease for the stadium from Galliard Homes in June of last year.

He added: “Greyhound racing will sit at the heart of our regeneration programme and has ultimately facilitated the return of our sport and community projects.

“These provisions have had a significant impact on the local area by creating scores of jobs, delivering lifechanging mental health and wellbeing programmes, and saving the historic Blackbird Leys ABC from closure.

“It has always been our ambition to transform Oxford Stadium from a derelict, decaying space to a multi-purpose venue local people can be proud of and feel attached to.

“We look forward to hosting a bumper crowd on opening night providing the perfect start to the bank holiday weekend.”

In May, Oxford Stadium hired a racing manager to ensure ‘the highest levels of integrity, welfare and care’ are met, in preparation for the return of greyhound racing.

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This story was written by Liam Rice, he joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Liam covers politics, travel and transport. He occasionally covers Oxford United.

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