Jonathan Hobbs: Not looking good for Belle Vue and more

Monday's announcement from Arc that a consultation process with staff at Belle Vue will begin immediately suggests we have seen the last greyhound race at the famous stadium.

Following the suspension of racing at the Manchester track post-lockdown, with the current behind-closed-doors policy blamed for this latest decision, a number of trainers attached to the track have moved on already - signing contracts at Sheffield and Perry Barr.

Arc has already pledged to continue to support those greyhounds with trainers attached to Belle Vue, meeting the welfare needs of those racers, and that is absolutely the right and correct thing to do - and you would expect nothing else from a well-run company.

But is it something the sport should just accept? Is there any recourse?

It needs to be reiterated Arc do not own Belle Vue, only hold the lease to race. They own Newcastle, Nottingham and Sunderland outright, but also only hold the lease at Perry Barr in Birmingham, on land owned by a go-ahead local council there.

The Belle Vue site in Gorton is owned by Crown Oil Pension Fund.

Crown Oil had been seemingly happy to use the ‘rental’ payments to ensure a profit for shareholders and investors. It was a workable arrangement ensuring the livelihoods of staff, both based at the track, and trainers and their staff attached to the venue.

However, in December, they sought and were granted planning permission for the site. That clearly expressed an intention to cash in on a property they owned, again absolutely their prerogative as the land owners - albeit a cold-hearted business decision.

Whether they should have had the opportunity in the first place remains a moot point, but a glance at previous owners the GRA’s history will bring you up to speed. Arc inherited a track which lacked investment and was shrouded in uncertainty, albeit was still very popular.

Chances are Belle Vue has gone. However, it would be nice to think greyhound racing itself will be involved in the ‘consultation process’ announced by Arc - and that means contact and discussions with the GBGB. It should be included - if nothing else to glean valuable experience and nous for future developments.

The Board is the sport’s regulator, but has been largely without a commercial presence since the British Greyhound Racing Board became the GBGB in 2009, although the sport has made giant strides in regulation, welfare and the policing of the sport. That side of greyhound racing is in fantastic hands and great shape.

However, GBGB managing director Mark Bird has signalled his own intentions for the future, including the appointment of a commercial director, which could take the game in a different direction still. It will see a rejuvenated attitude to PR and marketing - a fresh look at moving the sport forward.

Greyhound racing needs to shout from the rooftops - the product needs selling, again.

That said, all of this will likely come too late to save Belle Vue. Might a commercial director have sold the naming rights to the stadium? Could he or she have paved the way for a National Greyhound Racing Museum there - at the home of the sport.

Ironically, the land seems affordable now in the great scheme of things and Crown Oil could be willing partners in any sale - back to us!

Many within the industry have suggested, with good reason, that greyhound racing’s major problem is the lack of overall power it holds. It is a regulator, not a track owner. That is unlikely to change throughout this present Belle Vue situation, but must be goal.

You would never envisage horse racing selling Ascot, Epsom or York, but for those great and historic venues read White City, Wimbledon and Walthamstow for greyhound racing. Getting a foothold in track ownership could give the sport some certainty.

A pipedream, yes, but something definitely to give serious consideration - put the bricks in place now. Somewhere to proudly house the sport’s great history which stretches back to 1926 and that first meeting staged under rules at, yes, Belle Vue in Manchester.

Such a shame for Bumblebee

Best wishes to the Bruiser Boyz Syndicate after their TV Trophy heroine Bumblebee Bullet suffered a potentially career-ending injury in a trial at Shelbourne Park.

The brilliant young marathon performer was being prepared for a crack at the prestigious Corn Cuchulainn in Dublin, with her owners and trainer Mark Wallis opting to travel given a lack of open-race options in the UK immediately post-lockdown.

Ironically, a list of major competitions here has since been published, but not before the likes of Wallis and his great rival Kevin Hutton had sent a handful of their top-class runners across the Irish Sea - Hutton is targeting the Irish Oaks and Irish Derby with his team.

Bumblebee Bullet would have been a live contender for events such as the Coral Regency at Hove, starting next month, the Cesarewitch at Romford in September and, of course, a defence of her TV Trophy title at Hove in December.

The daughter of Romeo Recruit will remain in Ireland for treatment and is reported as comfortable and in good spirits - and will make a full recovery.

The Bruiser Boyz are one of greyhound racing’s best and loyal syndicates, with ‘chairman’ Billy Boyle a passionate supporter of the game and GBGB Greyhound Ambassador. He is understandably sore just now, but has been part of a fairytale comeback before.

His own Billys Bullet returned from a broken hock to famously win the Regency amid emotional scenes on Sky Sports and trainer Wallis helped nurse top-class Ayamzabreeze back from a ‘career-ender’. Fingers crossed history can repeat itself. All deserve it.

Newman golf days in the diary

Finally some dates for the diary - and a round of golf, or two.

Such has been the response to the annual GOSH Golf Day organised by Maurice Newman at Stapleford Abbots Golf Club in Essex that two days have now been set aside for the charity fundraiser - September 16-17.

A few ‘names’ will be among for the fields for the two days of golfing action which raises money for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and has been put together by one of the sport’s best-known fundraisers, who is 85 now.

A man steeped in boxing, football and greyhound racing history, with friends across the world of sport, he recently helped create the series ‘Flappers’ produced by Wapping Assassin TV which features Gary Wiltshire in conversation among others.

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