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Irish businessman bidding to save London’s last greyhound racing track

Architects’ sketches for a 4,500-capacity revamped dog track in Wimbledon

A BUSINESSMAN credited with revolutionising Ireland’s greyhound industry remains confident that his bid to save the last remaining dog track in London will be successful.

Paschal Taggart, former CEO of the Irish Greyhound Board, heads a consortium bidding for a multi-million pound takeover of the site in Plough Lane in Wimbledon.

Speaking to The Irish Post, Taggart said that many members of the Irish community around south London, and further afield, would be affected if alternative plans by the football club AFC Wimbledon to move back to the club’s former home were granted by Merton Council.

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“A lot of Irish go there; and have gone there over the years,” Taggart said of the Wimbledon venue, which has hosted greyhound racing since 1928 and the British derby since 1985.

“I go to the dogs and one in every three there will be Irish. They love their dogs, the Irish,” he added.

Taggart’s ambitions plans for a £30 million redevelopment project include a four-tier, 4,500-capacity greyhound stadium, a squash club with seven courts, apartments, a dance studio and a gym.

The businessman recently revealed that he plans to bring 12-race cards every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as a Sunday brunch meet.

Speaking about the current dog racing at Plough Lane, Taggart said: “Wimbledon’s the number one track in Britain, [but] it’s on the verge of extinction.

“I think there’s a future for greyhound racing. It can [potentially] generate new spectators by the thousands. And it’s because you’ve got a complete and utter dump in Wimbledon that no one’s going there; or very few are.”

Irish interest: Paschal Taggart

Taggart had strong words for the site’s existing co-owners — Galliard Homes and Risk Capital — who he said “had no interest” in greyhounds and were simply trying to maximise the price of the site.

“Whereas, I want to buy it and build a Royal Ascot for greyhound racing,” added Taggart.

Last month, AFC Wimbledon announced proposals for redevelopment of the site, including building a stadium which would hold 12,000 fans and cost around £100m in a project reported to take “around 10 years” to complete.

When asked to respond to Wimbledon football supporters who want the club they support to return to its home borough of Merton for the first time since 1991, Taggart said: “It wasn’t the greyhound people that sold Plough Lane and built apartments there.

“Quite simply, the council of the day allowed the planning [permission] and they sold them down the drain, so it’s not the responsibility of the greyhound community to give up their track to facilitate football.”

When contacted by The Irish Post, AFC Wimbledon CEO Erik Samuelson said that given the community club’s owners are the fans it would not be appropriate to comment on the club’s future plans without consulting them first.

A meeting to be held by Merton Council on September 11 is expected to be the next step regarding discussions on the future of the Plough Lane site – which has for years also hosted stock car and banger racing events.

Taggart said he believed that the Council are keen to bring the football club back to Plough Lane.

“Merton Council have looked at proposals for it — they’re looking for enhanced sporting activity. There’s no doubt they would like a football club back there. I don’t think they’re gonna get it,” he added.

What do you think? 

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27 comments on “Irish businessman bidding to save London’s last greyhound racing track”

  1. Shaun Barry

    AFC Wimbledon must be allowed to return home this is not just for Wimbledon but for all foot all fans,dog racing is horrible all that Irish bloke wants is to make more money when the dogs have come to the end of their life they are treated in a disgusting mana dog racing should be banned . Bring the dons home there should only be one winner in this AFC Wimbledon .

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  2. Lee

    I think the poll speaks for itself

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  3. chris root

    Difficult to see how the local community can engage with dog racing to anything like the much larger extent that they could engage with a community football club!

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    • Phil Mc

      But the dogs were there first and should remain so.

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      • Reg Davis

        Greyhound racing began at Plough Lane in 1928.

        Football at Plough Lane began in 1912.

        Which one came first?

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      • Robc

        The football club was situated on Plough Lane in 1912, the greyhound stadium didn't appear until 1928

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  4. Grizzer

    Greyhound racing, really?? It's 2013 and time to put these cruel "sports"
    to rest.
    Paschal Taggart can not be so tone deaf as to ignore the huge anti greyhound racing sentiment in the world. Even China is being pressured to stop it. The death rate, abuse and crime in racing has been well documented and now un-disputable thanks to social media.
    Get educated people.

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  5. Christine Barritt

    Greyhound racing's time has come and gone. The mass-breeding, mistreatment & slaughter of greyhounds is reason enough to gradually shut 'the industry' down. The community at large &/or true sports such as football should have use of the space.

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  6. Tim Naylor

    The reason greyhound racing is dying out is that people have wised up that running dogs - often to their death - is not actually entertainment. Reports of poor animal husbandry and neglect in the greyhound racing industry are rife. It's never been about the 'dogs' or the local 'community'... it's all about the betting and the money, it's disingenuous to claim otherwise.

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  7. raymond mcbride

    THE REASON THERE ARE NO OTHER DOG TRACKS IN LONDON IS BECAUSE NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT DOG RACING.

    WHO WANTS TO WATCH A BUNCH OF DOGS CHASE A MENCHANICAL RABBIT? NOBODY.

    I DO NOT KNOW ANY IRISH WHO GO DOG RACING IN SOUTH LONDON. BUT FUNNY ENOUGH KNOW TONS OF IRISH WHO GO TO FOOTBALL GAMES.

    SEEING GRAYHOUNDS WITH EARS SLICED OFF, SO THEIR ID NUMBER STOPPED FROM BEING READ, WOULD PUT ME OFF EVER WATCHING DOG RACING.

    WHAT DO FOLKS THINKS HAPPENED TO THESE DOGS AFTER THEY STOP RACING? THEY GO TO NICE RETIREMENT HOME? YEAH RIGHT!

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    • Julie

      AFC Wimbledon have never played in Wimbledon instead chose to buy Kingstonian's ground while the real Wimbledon FC were left virtually fan less (at Crystal Palace)and at mercy of the owners who decided after the "fans" formed their own club to take the PROPOSED option and move the club 50 odd miles to Milton Keynes I hate way the press forget the order of whole Wimbledon saga and blame it all on Milton Keynes who had no say in matter.

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      • Trevor

        You are the one who has got your facts wrong. The owners decided to move WFC to Milton Keynes and THAT was the reason why the fans set up AFCW. The decision was made by the owners, and nothing was going to stop it after the FA gave permission. AFCW were formed and started playing at KM, and WFC continued in existence at SP for a short time before finally moving to MK. THESE are the facts.

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  8. Don Wise

    If its all about the dogs - it would be cheaper to get a site further from London like many horse tracks are. But then Taggart wouldn't get his hands on prime SW19 real estate.
    The football club and ground will be great for the local community: kids' summer courses etc...

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  9. Alex

    Dog racing in Wimbledon? No thank you. I would much rather have the local football club back.. Greyhound racing afterall is nothing but cruel to the dogs concerned. I don't understand why it's not banned full stop?

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  10. Don Wise

    If he wants to save a cruel sport it would be cheaper to buy land further out of London like all the race tracks are but then he wouldn't get his hands on prime SW19 real estate.
    A football club will be the best thing for the local area and community. SW London needs the Dons home where they belong

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  11. Robc

    Why does this article and the Taggart camp insist that Wimbledon is London's last dog track? Correct me if I am wrong but is there not an active dog track in Romford which the last time I looked is in Greater London?

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  12. Mike Hunt

    It's plain and simple. The original Dons have a home, and that is in Milton Keynes. As much of a bitter pill as it is for the footballing community to take, it's fact. AFC Wimbledon are in no way affiliated to Wimbledon FC. Therefore, I see no reason why we should take away this dog racetrack to pave the way for deserting fans of Wimbledon FC to play-act and pretend that AFC Wimbledon are them. They aren't and they shouldn't be claiming to be!!

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    • daniel

      You have a very Apt name Mike

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    • Barry Lendrum

      It was the Wimbledon FC owners who deserted the fans, the move to MK Town was always going to happen and that's why the fans set up a new club.

      AFC Wimbledon are directly affiliated with Wimbledon FC, far moreso than MK Franchise Cons claim to be who just bought our league spot and initially tried and failed to claim the South London town's footballing history as their own. Wimbledon FC's long history and success belongs to the town and people of Wimbledon and the fans who supported them who were forced into creating a new club in continuation, not MK Town which wasn't even around as a town for most of the time, or their people.

      The AFC Wimbledon fans are the spiritual fans of old Wimbledon FC, whilst many MK fans probably cheered on Liverpool in the 1988 cup final, probably around 99% of them certainly weren't Wimbledon FC fans. It's MK who are the pretenders not AFC Wimbledon, 99% of football fans know this. You are in a huge minority.

      Very apt name btw, it suits you.

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  13. bill

    listen, if you lot want a stadium for your poxy team by all means build one.....just leave the dogtrack alone. you aint the crazy gang of old. your a team that started up over the park a few years ago an stuck the name wimbledon in. i aint got a problem with the team but all you lot who want the dogtrack taken down for being CRUEL to dogs want to go an save a rainforest or something. build a stadium on something that aint yours!

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    • Barry Lendrum

      I think you're barking up the wrong tree.

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  14. Paddy Garcia

    Speaking as an outsider (Swindon Town fan)it seems to me that:
    1. MK Dons are an abomination and are the realisation of everything that is bad in football. I look forward to the day that they are overtaken in the league by AFCW and ultimately to the demise of MK Dons.
    2. AFCW are everything that is good in football. A fan's club owned and operated in a sensible way and the "only" Wimbledon club - past, present and future.
    3. Dog racing is a minority sport, with many issues including cruelty and it has no future.
    4. It's time AFCW were allowed to play in Wimbledon and it's time everyone locally supported this opportunity to do so.
    5. No disrespect to the Irish lads but far more go to footie than the dogs.
    6. Good luck to AFCW.

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  15. Barry Lendrum

    MK Dong fans are rigging the poll against AFC Wimbledon (the real Dons) returning.

    http://www.concreteroundabout.co.uk/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=8520

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  16. Ardi Kolah

    I will declare an interest here upfront - I live in the vicinity of the site that AFC want to move to in Plough Lane and I strongly object to this for the following issues:

    There are issues with a football stadium being built in the vicinity proposed as planning laws need to be complied with and frankly the football proposal lacks any credible financial backing and support from local residents.

    It's a great example of Merton Councillors trying to make a name for themselves and grabbing cheap headlines.

    This is an amateur football team and not the proposed return of the professional team to Plough Lane that left a long time ago. The Councillors who peddle the romantic story line to football fans of football returning to Plough Lane have conflated the professional and amateur football teams as being "one" and are being disingenuous with the facts.

    There are also significant social and environmental impact questions that need to be answered, not least the traffic congestion and the dangers that such a proposed development will pose to all residents which is frankly unsustainable.

    There's been no consultation with those who really matter here - the residents - and so the planning officer appointed to hear the proposals needs to be in listening mode.

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  17. Ingrid

    I agree with Ardi 100% and most of the residents in this area do!! We just don't have the room or the infra structure in an already congested area for a 20 000 football stadium which will not only be used for AFC Wimbledon but, according to AFC's `own leaflet' will have to be used for other events to make any money. Merton Council paid for an independent Feasibility Study years ago to see if a large Football Stadium on the Greyhound site would be feasible. The answer was a clear and resounding NO due to lack of nearby public transport facilities in an already heavily congested area. We have had no problem with visitors to the Greyhound over the years but those who lived here in the old football days still remember the mayhem and destruction caused by mainly the Away football fans visiting Plough Lane. This is OUR area! WE live here and WE have a right to have our say too!

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  18. Joe

    I will declare an interest too. I am also a local resident and a part owner of AFC Wimbledon. I watched my first ever football match at Plough Lane in 1980 and have been to hundreds of Wimbledon matches.

    Despite living within 20 mins walk or less of the Greyhound Stadium for 30 years, I have been less than 10 times. It is just not a sport that appeals to many local residents

    Not sure what Ardi means about an 'amateur' football club. AFC Wimbledon have been professional for several years.

    It is very unlikely that Wimbledon will be a top flight club again, there is too much money these days, so any talk of a 20,000 seat stadium is scaremongering. What is being proposed is an 11,000 capacity stadium. The only likelihood of ever going above that could be decades down the line.

    What AFC Wimbledon seeks is a modern stadium that enables them to better accommodate family attendance and to further the excellent community schemes they run that benefit, particularly, the kids of Merton

    As the Greyhound industry has crumbled so has the immediate local area, which has resembled a tatty industrial estate for at least the last 7-10 years. Local business such as Pubs and Cafes, part of the secondary economy of the Greyhound Stadium have closed in droves.

    A modern Football stadium with community sporting facilities, match day park and ride provision from stations and local pubs (which works spectacularly well for US stadia) will give the locality a lift.

    I feel sorry for the last remaining Greyhound fans, but that ship has sailed. The industry in Ireland is making huge losses and closing the prime UK Stadium at Walthamstow shows that it has already collapsed in England.

    It's wrong for the concerns of Irish dog owners to take precedent over an exciting project that will regenerate a part of Wimbledon and provide a sporting focus for many future generations of Merton kids

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