Almost 8,000 people turned up to the 3,000 capacity Wimbledon Stadium on Saturday to witness London’s last ever greyhound race.
Queues stretched around the block and hundreds of disappointed people were turned away in scenes reminiscent of the stadium’s 1970s and 80s heyday, while inside punters ripped out souvenirs wherever they could.
Dwindling attendances and opposition from animals charities have eroded the sport, culminating in the sale of London’s last remaining greyhound stadium to Galliard Homes and AFC Wimbledon for a joint stadium and flats venture, leaving many involved facing an uncertain future.
“It’s the end of my working life,” said Bob Higgs, the groundsman of Wimbledon Stadium for almost 30 years.
“In about 20 years greyhound racing will be gone – it will be finished in my opinion. Closing this will have a massive knock-on effect.”
Though the sport has long been controversial , for the people involved the closure is a loss of their livelihood.
Greyhound racing has always been in Mr Higgs’s family and he himself has been involved in greyhound racing since for over 40 years.
He said it can be tough work, especially when fewer and fewer people are getting in to the sport.
“In greyhound racing, you say it’s a 40 hour week but you really do 60,” explained Mr Higgs.
“But we didn’t even get a thank you, just a goodbye.”
And although there were 8,000 people who turned up to witness Wimbledon Stadium’s final moments, this in itself represented one of the problems facing the sport.
“It was a big crowd, but it was the wrong crowd,” said Mr Higgs.
“Locals, and people who heard the news and just wanted to pop down for a day.
“People were ripping out everything they can get their hands on. Someone even took a toilet door. It saves us a job though – everything’s got to go.”