Closure of Lifford dog track ‘devastating’

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The closure of Lifford Greyhound Stadium, which employs up to 40 people, will deal a devastating blow to dog racing in the North West, according to a familiar face at the dogtrack.

Gerard McCloskey, who has taken thousands of bets at the venue over the years, said: “Lifford is one of the premier tracks in the country. This is going to devastate racing in the North West.

“The prize money was always good. It’s going to very difficult now.”

He was speaking after the Duffy family from Derry, who operate the track, said they had been left with no choice but to close the arena.

“Due to an ongoing lack of support from the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) we regretfully announce that Lifford Greyhound Stadium will be closing its doors permanently on August 17.

“While this has not been an easy decision to make, we would like to thank all the owners, trainers, customers and all the hardworking staff that has helped us over the last 15 years. If you oppose this decision, we would invite you to speak to the IGB as we would be happy to continue to support Greyhound racing in the North West,” they said in a statement.

The owners said that cuts in support from the IGB had led to Lifford being stripped of two races and that they would now be allowed to run only 10 races once a week.

Mr. McCloskey said: “It was still doing okay on a Saturday night but the cuts just kept coming and that’s what happened. The main point I would like to get across is that the greyhound people are grateful to the Duffys for keeping it open and keeping it going. They faced a mountain of a task to keep it going after these latest cuts.”

The IGB said it “regretted the closure of Lifford Greyhound Stadium and its impact on staff, owners and the wider greyhound community”.

It said: “The IGB is very aware of the excellent work done by all those at the track as part of the greyhound fraternity. The Duffy family, owners of the track, have a long association and strong commitment to greyhound racing. While Lifford is a private track and not in the ownership of the IGB, the IGB has provided wide ranging support to Lifford for a long period of time.

“This included a significant capital financial investment in providing the current facilities at the stadium. The IGB has engaged with Lifford in recent times regarding financial difficulties at the track, which included a meeting between the Board and Lifford’s owners in May 2019.

“However, the arrangement of the type sought by the stadium representatives at that time is not within the mandate of the Board as a semi-state company and does not meet the corporate governance requirements applying to the IGB. Indecon Economic Consultants is currently conducting a comprehensive, strategic review into the future needs of the Irish greyhound industry, with a full report expected by October 2019.”

A meeting of owners and trainers is due to take place in the Fir Trees Hotel in Strabane at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 14, to discuss the closure.