To the dismay of dog-racing enthusiasts the date Wimbledon Track will close was announced yesterday.
The William Hill English Derby final will take place on Saturday June 4, to be followed by ‘Farewell to Wimbledon’ events on the following two Saturdays.
The closure will leave only 24 tracks open in England, none of which are in London, a fact many attribute to the rise of online and virtual betting.
The Greyhound Racing Association’s managing director, Clive Feltham, said: “”It is desperately sad, but the owners secured the planning permission they required for development in December, nothing relevant has happened since and there is no room left for manoeuvre.
“Whatever happens with the mayor, our lease has ended. We have looked at all the options, and decided once we had reached this conclusion, it was better to inform everyone immediately.”
The prospect of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s potential intervention comes far too late, as AFC Wimbledon are set to build their new stadium on the plot of land.
AFC are due to sell their current stadium to Chelsea FC in 2017, however building their new stadium in just over a year might be a struggle.
The news will come as a landmark in the eyes of animal rights’ charity PETA, who condemned ‘cruel’ greyhound racing and whose petition against Wimbledon Dog Track racked up more than 15,000 signatures.
PETA UK Director Mimi Bekhechi told South West Londoner: “Close it and break out the champagne, because dogs will be the winners the day the racing ends!
“Greyhound racing is a cruel pastime from a bygone era, which is why the industry is in severe decline.”
The future of racing dogs remains unclear, with 3,500 retired racing hounds ‘unaccounted’ for every year, according to the Retired Greyhound Trust.
Disheartened racing fans took to twitter today to voice their dismay.
Sad news about Wimbledon greyhound track closing in June. #WhereWillTheDerbyBeHeldNow
— Sarah Kinsella (@BoyleSportsSK) February 25, 2016
Sarah Kinsella, who writes about the Irish Greyhound Derby called the closure ‘sad news’ and questioned the future of the derby.
Enraged user Jaytwo86 posted: “Good of AFC Wimbledon to put 120 people out of work by putting their new ground on the dog track.
“A truly great, community club #DOGSNOTDONS.”
Good of AFC Wimbledon to put 120 ppl out of work by putting their new ground on the dog track. A truly great, community club. #DOGSNOTDONS
— JJ (@Jaytwo86) February 25, 2016
There is hope to reorganise next year’s Derby to another location, which is yet to be announced.
Featured image courtesy of sixten3 via YouTube, with thanks