Brandywell redevelopment set for further delay amid threat of legal action

An artist's impression of the new Brandywell Stadium with the newlook Brandywell Showgrounds  in the background, the new greyhound track surrounding the Showgrounds pitch.
An artist's impression of the new Brandywell Stadium with the newlook Brandywell Showgrounds in the background, the new greyhound track surrounding the Showgrounds pitch.

The much anticipated refurbishment of Brandywell Stadium appears destined for further delay, with news that the local greyhound racing company has threatened legal action after learning that Derry City and Strabane District Council may opt to proceed with the development without them.

The much anticipated refurbishment of Brandywell Stadium appears destined for further delay, with news that the local greyhound racing company has threatened legal action after learning that Derry City and Strabane District Council may opt to proceed with the development without them.

Indeed, the company, one of the stadium’s long-standing stakeholders, is furious that a leaked document to the “Journal” this week, suggests the local authority could attempt to end dog racing in the stadium when the Council reconvenes this afternoon to discuss the issue.

Today’s special meeting will inform councillors that legal opinion, sought by the Council, suggests the inclusion of a new dog racing facility would be considered “poor value for money” for local ratepayers.

An estimated investment of £750,000 is required to purchase and construct the new track around a pitch in the Showgrounds area. However, proposed new rental charges for the new facility would fail to offer value for money in terms of the Council recouping the investment.

Having had sight of the document last night, Mr. Michael McLaughlin, a director of the Brandywell Greyhound Racing Company, was furious that the local dog racing fraternity could be treated in such a way.

“We have always been in favour of the redevelopment of the Brandywell - both the stadium and the local area,” he claimed. “We’ve never stood in the way of progress or modernisation; we’ve simply asked to be included in the discussions if they were to have an impact on our sport,” he added.

“Our representatives have attended meetings with the Council over recent weeks and months. We’ve made our position abundandly clear, yet we’ve now discovered that it’s possible that our sport, which has been operating in the Brandywell area since 1932, may not considered important enough to be included in any redevelopment.”

“We currently operate a business which is fit for purpose. We pay our rent and maintain our facility to the best of our ability. Given the options that had been proposed initially - and we appear to have been included in those options - we are happy if the council chose to ‘work around us in the Brandywell.’ We’ve never asked to be relocated, that was a council proposal, not ours.

“However, as one of several stakeholders, we are entitled to voice our opinion. All we have asked for in the past was honesty and fairness, yet there appears to be quite a lot going on behind the scenes, suggestions which we certainly didn’t anticipate.

“We have made ourselves available at all times to meet with both the Council and the other stakeholders when requested. We will facilitate and accommodate the development in any way we can, just as long as our intersts are taken into consideration.

“All we have asked for is fairness and there now appears to be some sort of problem on that front. As I’ve said, we’re in favour of modernsiation, but we do have a business which remains viable in Brandywell Stadium. If the Council opst to ‘work around us,’ that’s fine. If they opt to move us to the Showgrounds, that also fine, but should they seek to dismiss our long-standing presence, then that’s something we must address and deal with,” added Mr. McLaughlin.

“And let me make it crystal clear again. We do not oppose any redevelopment of an area in Derry which clearly requires immediate refurbishment. We welcome and applaud new sporting facilities and we believe such an investment is not before time, however, we insist on fairness and we will do our part in catering for a sport which has seen greyhound racing playing a prominent role in this particular area since the early 1930’s.”

Mr. McLaughlin concluded: “We will attend Friday afternoon’s meeting and we will listen carefully to what Derry City and Strabane District officials and councillors have to say. We will not be bullied and we will carefully consider any conclusions reached, before making any decisions on the part we feel we must play in any future redevelopment of Brandywell Stadium.”

Brandywell Greyhound Racing Company director, Michael McLaughlin, also pointed to the fact that his company’s facilities remained ‘fit for purpose.’

He explained: “We currently operate facilities which are fit for purpose. We pay our rent and maintain the track to the best of our ability. Given the options that had been proposed initially - and we appear to have been included in those options - we are happy if the Council opts to ‘work around us in the Brandywell.

“We’ve never asked to be relocated, that was a council proposal, not ours.

“However, as one of a number of stakeholders, we are entitled to voice our opinion. All we have asked for in the past was honesty and fairness, yet there appears to be quite a lot going on behind the scenes, even alleged suggestions which we certainly didn’t anticipate.

“We have made ourselves available at all times to meet with both the Council and the other stakeholders.

“We intend to facilitate and accommodate the development in any way we can, just as long as our intersts are taken into consideration.

“All we have asked for was fairness and there now appears to be some sort of problem on that front. As I’ve said, we’re in favour of modernsiation, but we do have a business which remains viable in the stadium. If the Council opts to ‘work around us,’ that’s fine. If they opt to move us to the Showgrounds, that also fine, but should Council opt to dismiss our long-standing presence, then that’s something we must address and deal with,” insisted Mr. McLaughlin.

“And let me make it crystal clear yet again. We do not oppose any redevelopment of an area in Derry which clearly requires immediate refurbishment.

“We welcome and applaud new sporting facilities and we believe such an investment is not before time, however, we insist on fairness and we will do our part in catering for a sport which has seen greyhound racing playing a prominent role in this particular area since the early 1930’s.”

Mr. McLaughlin concluded: “We will attend Friday afternoon’s meeting (today) and we will listen carefully to what Derry City and Strabane District officials and councillors have to say.

“We will not be bullied and we will carefully consider any conclusions reached before making any decisions on the part we feel we must play in any future redevelopment of Brandywell Stadium.”