After the Second World War, greyhound racing was one of the most popular sports in the UK. The accessibility and urban locations of racetracks made the sport a roaring success with the working classes. Indeed, it’s said that in 1946, a total of 75 million people attended greyhound racing fixtures across the country.
Fast forward some 80 years, and it’s fair to say that greyhound racing is no longer as popular a pursuit. Many of the grand old locations of the past, including Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium, no longer host greyhound racing, but that is not to say there is a lack of support for the sport. Indeed, there have been several good-news stories of late, including the redevelopment of various racetracks up and down the country.
So, where does greyhound racing go from here? On one hand, the biggest races are still hugely popular, not least the English Greyhound Derby, which still attracts plenty of interest each year. There is a dedicated community of racing fans, who follow the sport religiously and enjoy a bet on greyhounds. On the other, there is an acceptance that more can be done to promote greyhound racing to new audiences.
The lack of television coverage means the greyhound racing may have to think outside the box. The first step towards building a successful future for the sport is ensuring that race venues are packed to the rafters each week.
That may come by providing additional entertainment at racing events, attracting those who are not necessarily greyhound fans through and through. That may cause the loyal followers of the sport to wince, but sometimes that’s the only way to get through to potential new fans.
Greyhound racing could learn a thing or two from its cousin, horse racing. The most popular racing fixtures always promote something of a carnival atmosphere, and there is plenty to enjoy even if you’re not a die-hard horse racing fan. Greyhound racing can often seem like more of a closed club, and its up to the powers that be to change that.
The modernisation of many venues up and down the country should help to attract more people to attend fixtures. After all, clean and plush surroundings with hospitality on offer put to bed the stereotypes of dark and dingy greyhound tracks, will make the sport a more polished proposition for both spectators and sponsor. The latter is something that greyhound racing has sorely lacked.
For minority sports, the struggle is always competing against the big hitters, but while horse racing may be streets ahead of greyhounds in terms of popularity, there is always a chance that fans can be converted.
As long as there is still a passionate group of people committed to growing the sport, then greyhound racing should have a bright future. At the end of the day, the biggest thing they have going for them is the pure drama and unpredictability of the races themselves. If authorities and governing bodies can come up with a good way to market the sport to potential new fans, then the drama of the biggest races will entertain anyone.