Nowadays, with the glitz and glamour of the Premier League and the large amounts of money involved with the English top flight, it’s hard to picture greyhound racing taking place at top football stadiums across the United Kingdom. However, at its peak following the World Wars, the sport had a massive following in England with the popularity in greyhound betting skyrocketing.
In fact, greyhound racing was second only to football in terms of attendances and that meant there was money to be made for clubs in hosting meetings a couple of times during the week, especially as football was predominantly only played on Saturdays back in those times. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at some of the grounds in England that used to play host to greyhound racing. Read on to find out more!
Where better to start than with the national stadium? The old Wembley hosted its first greyhound meeting in 1927, when a 70,000-strong crowd watched on as Spin won the Empress Stakes. It must have been easy to get greyhound betting tips with so many people in attendance! Over the years, the north London stadium went on to hold some of the sport’s biggest races, including the St Leger and the Coronation Cup, even refusing to cancel a greyhound meeting for a 1966 World Cup match between Uruguay and France, which ultimately had to be moved to White City Stadium in the west of the capital. Despite being such an integral part of Wembley’s history, greyhound racing was left out of the plans to rebuild the venue and it stopped taking place at the stadium in 1998.
Best known for being the home of Chelsea Football Club, Stamford Bridge in south west London is another stadium with a rich history of greyhound racing. Faced with financial difficulties, Chelsea asked the English FA for permission to host greyhound racing in 1928, but the proposal was swiftly turned down by the governing body. However, just four years later, and a failed attempt at hosting dirt bike racing, Stamford Bridge played host to its first greyhound racing meeting. Chelsea hosted events for years and the club made millions in revenue, even saving them from liquidation, whilst the famous Shed End was also formed in this period. But, in 1967 the Blues’ owners decided to revamp the Bridge and that brought an end to racing on the Fulham Road. An attempt to bring the dogs back to Stamford Bridge in the 70s failed.
Watford’s Vicarage Road hosted greyhound racing for the best part of half a century. The Hertfordshire-based stadium hosted its first meeting in 1928, and would hold events up to four times a week with racegoers flocking to the venue on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Greyhound racing briefly stopped at Vicarage Road in 1969, returning in 1974 under the guidance of the Greyhound Racing Association. However, it was short-lived as Watford revealed plans to improve the stadium, which didn’t include a future for racing to take place at Vicarage Road. The last race at the stadium took place in 1978 with Chad Supreme the victor.
Elland Road didn’t exactly host greyhound racing per se. Instead, races took part on Fullerton Park — a venue adjacent to the Leeds United stadium. The first race took place in 1927, but race nights would only last for little more than year as Fullerton Park was deemed to be too close to its rivalling Elland Road Greyhound Stadium. Fullerton Park is now the car park for Leeds United’s ground, whilst the other nearby greyhound stadium has since been turned into Elland Road police station.