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Keith Laybourn

173 7 The decline of greyhound racing in Britain, 1961–​2017 A new greyhound stadium was opened at Towcester on 6 December 2014 at a cost of £1.8  million, the first new track in Britain since 1995.1 In 2016 it was announced that Abbey Meads Stadium (Blunden), Swindon, was to be built and opened in 2017. It cost about £5 million and replaced the existing stadium which opened in 1949.2 Such good news for greyhound racing belies the fact that the sport has declined sharply and changed considerably in Britain since the late 1940s. As already indicted, since 1926

in Going to the dogs
The politics of discrimination
Keith Laybourn

19 1 The rise of greyhound racing in Britain, 1926–​45: the politics of discrimination Hare coursing was common throughout Britain in the nineteenth century and whippet racing popular in London and the North but it was not until 1876, when greyhounds chased a mechanical hare (a false trail or quarry) at Welsh Harp racecourse in Hendon, North London, that modern mechanised greyhound racing began.1 This flicker of activity provoked little interest and the working classes remained loyal to whippet racing, where dogs were released to run across a field following

in Going to the dogs
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A history of greyhound racing in Britain, 1926–2017
Author:

Modern greyhound racing in Britain, with an electronic hare whirraxing round a circular track being chased by greyhounds, began at Belle Vue Stadium, Manchester, in 1926. It became an overnight sensation attracting around thirty-eight million attendees per year in the late 1930s. It mainly attracted male working-class bettors, and sometimes their families, for an ‘American night out’, watching the likes of Mick the Miller, and offering the bright lights and the gambling opportunities that were normally denied them. However, from the start its mushrooming growth led to religious and municipal opposition from those who felt that it was an immoral activity causing poverty, fecklessness amongst youth, corrupting women and children, encouraging the vision of a ‘something for nothing mentality’, leading to criminality. It was not for them a rational recreation. They opposed tote betting and the construction of tracks but were unsuccessful in stopping its growth until discriminatory actions and taxation in the 1940s tipped it into decline as betting on the greyhound moved off-course and into the betting shops, and as scandals developed around the treatment of greyhounds. There are now only two million attendances per year. Yet for a quarter of a century it played an important part in the leisure of a small proportion of the working classes attracted to the middle-class financed tracks. It provided employment opportunities for communities and it was far from being the den of iniquity it was often portrayed as being, despite the presence of a few small on-course gangs like the Sabinis at Brighton.

Dividing the classes
Keith Laybourn

106 4 Dog breeding, dog owning and dog training: dividing the classes In twenty-​first century Britain the internet is awash with adverts connected with the breeding and training of greyhounds. There is a Greyhound Breeder Information Centre, a Kennel Club connected with greyhounds, the Greyhound Stud Book and National Coursing Club, the Greyhound Trust, and numerous local organisations to place retired greyhounds. Indeed, the ownership of greyhounds for racing has recently become an immensely controversial issue largely because in many countries greyhounds

in Going to the dogs
Greyhound racing in Britain, 1945 to the 1960s
Keith Laybourn

59 2 Discrimination and decline: greyhound racing in Britain, 1945 to the 1960s Surviving the Second World War relatively intact and experiencing an immediate post-​war boom, greyhound racing looked to have a promising future. Yet within four or five years that picture had changed dramatically. Problems with the British economic productivity in 1946 and 1947, with the bad winter of 1946/​47, undermined British post-​war industrial growth and may have been responsible for both the restrictions on greyhound meetings being held and the taxation imposed upon

in Going to the dogs
Abstract only
Keith Laybourn

1 Introduction In 1926, three months after the first British greyhound meeting, held at Belle Vue in Manchester on 24 July, an unknown civil servant wrote, on the brown outer-​ cover of a Home Office file, a terse, though all-​embracing, comment on the new mushrooming sport of greyhound racing: This [file] refers to the ‘new sport’ which consists of an artificial hare, by an electrical contrivance, being sent round a course. Each time some half dozen greyhounds are released who endeavour to capture the hare. The hare by a mechanical regulatory device is kept

in Going to the dogs
Keith Laybourn

142 6 Policing the tracks, detecting malpractice and dealing with the racketeers and ‘shady’ individuals, 1926 to c. 1961 The fact is that frequent allegations of crookedness in the sport on different tracks, suggestions of doping dogs, devices to hamper their running, and many other charges, whether true or untrue, must have had their effect on the average Englishman with dogmatic views as to the maintenance of fair play and discipline and control in all its branches. (The Morning Post, 10 January 1929, in an article entitled ‘Going to the Dogs, Greyhound

in Going to the dogs
Abstract only
Keith Laybourn

194 Conclusion Greyhound racing in Britain enjoyed almost a quarter of a century of success between the mid-​1920s and the late 1940s, even though its early development was checked and confined by the ‘Tote crisis’ of 1932–​34 and the Second World War. It fulfilled the need for a legal gambling outlet for a small section of the working class at a time when off-​course ready-​money betting was illegal, only on-​course money betting and credit betting being legal at the time. Indeed, with more than 200 tracks operating in the 1930s, largely established in urban

in Going to the dogs
Keith Laybourn

123 5 An Ascot for the common man The position as I see it, and the Government see it, has been materially changed since the development of greyhound racing in 1926. There are only seven horse racecourses within 15 miles of Charing Cross, with 187 days of racing, whereas in the same area there are 23 greyhound tracks with over 4,000 days’ racing within a year. Greyhound racing has brought on-​the course betting facilities, often as an almost nightly event, into most of the large urban centres of the country. (Sir John Gilmour, Home Secretary, Parliamentary

in Going to the dogs
Financing, operating and managing the greyhound tracks for racing the dogs, c. 1926–61
Keith Laybourn

79 3 ‘Animated roulette boards’: financing, operating and managing the greyhound tracks for racing the dogs, c. 1926–​61 Modern mechanised greyhound racing emerged overnight in 1926, but it had a long pedigree ranging back to coursing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What was new and distinct about it was that greyhounds were now to be run on oval tracks with the use of a mechanical hare and within a stadium –​ except on the temporary ‘tracks of eight days’ allowed to be set upon agricultural land or spare land under the 1934 Betting and Lotteries

in Going to the dogs