There was a time when greyhound racing was one of the most popular sports in the country. Before the Betting & Gaming Act of 1960 legalised high street bookmakers, the only way that you could place a wager in the country without breaking the law was by doing so at a racetrack. Horse racing was mostly the reserve of the upper classes, so working class people would head to the dog tracks in order to watch some racing and place a bet or two. At its height in 1946, attendances peaked at about 70 million, with 77 licensed tracks around the country.
In the years that followed, greyhound racing’s popularity took a nosedive and the willingness of people to head to the dog track started to wane. As a result, stadium after stadium closed, largely because the audience wasn’t there to get people into the venues, so their need to exist disappeared. Nowadays, there are 20 licensed dog tracks in the UK, alongside two unlicensed tracks. A London audience can still head along and see some greyhound racing, but it is fair to say that the number of options that were there many years ago simply aren’t available any more.
List of Dog Tracks Still Running Near London
When it comes to licensed greyhound racing tracks, there are just two that would be considered to be in London. Even that requires a generous interpretation of the border of the city, with some likely to argue that the locations in question aren’t London. There are others in locations that are often considered to be commuter distance from the capital, but it is important to acknowledge that they aren’t in London itself. As this is a guide for people that might like to enjoy a trip to a dog racing track, we’re going to include those within commutable distance.
|Stadium||Location||Distance from Tower of London|
|Romford Greyhound Stadium||Romford||11.30 miles|
|Crayford Stadium||Bexley||11.60 miles|
|Harlow Stadium||Harlow||19.15 miles|
|Henlow Stadium||Stondon||36.04 miles|
|Central Park Stadium||Sittingbourne||37.60 miles|
|Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium||Brighton & Hove||46.23 miles|
|Oxford Stadium||Oxford||50.51 miles|
The distance measured is as the crow flies, but all of the locations chosen are relatively easy to reach from central London. Obviously, by choosing commuter locations there are some that made the cut and others that didn’t, but these are the stadiums that we believe could be visited by someone from London and returned back from within the same day. It is, of course, debatable, but these are the stadiums we believe tick the boxes.
Now that we know which stadiums are, in our opinion, close enough to London to be considered as venues on our list, it is worth taking a closer look at each of them. Some have, somewhat surprisingly, been built recently, whilst others were built during the boom of greyhound racing and have managed to keep going. The fact that they are close to the capital means that there is an audience of millions that they can attract to make them worth visiting.
Romford Greyhound Stadium
The closest stadium to the Tower of London as the crow flies, Romford Greyhound Stadium first opened its doors in 1929. A new track was built two years later and it has remained much the same ever since. Obviously the facilities have been updated in order to ensure it remains modern, but the track hasn’t seen too many changes since those first years. The track was built by Archer Leggett and his brother-in-law, having put down £400 in order to host greyhound racing. The hare was driving by an engine from an old Ford car, which is obviously one of the things that has been modernised.
The track itself has a circumference of 350 metres, allowing it to host races over the likes of 225 metres, 400 metres and 575 metres. Those races include some big named ones, such as the Cesarewitch, the Essex Vase, the Champion Stakes and the Golden Sprint. The Romford Puppy Cup is also on the list of events held here and boasts an obvious local feel. At one point, Romford Greyhound Stadium hosted an ill-fated trial of cheetah racing. In 2006, a £400,000 refurbishment took place at the grandstand and another multi-million pound renovation took place 13 years later.
The second-closest stadium to the Tower of London as the crow flies, and only by a whisker, is Crayford Stadium. Located in the Borough of Bexley, it first opened its doors in 1986. As most of the other greyhound stadiums in the capital were either shutting or had shut, Crayford & Bexleyheath Stadium was knocked down and Crayford Stadium was built in its place. The site, which was 20 acres, was redeveloped and five acres was given over to the new venue, which took 16 months to build and open. The venue was owned by Ladbrokes at the time.
There are several top-class greyhound events hosted here. The Golden Jacket is arguably the most notable, but the Gold Collar, Kent St. Leger, Guys and Dolls, Champion Hurdle and the Crayford / Kent Vase are also hosted by the venue. As a stadium, it continues to be operated by Entain, which is the parent company of Ladbrokes, Coral and other betting sites, with a long-term deal with Arena Racing Company signed in 2022. Racing takes place fairly regularly, not least because of a deal signed with SIS in 2018 to broadcast events several days a week.
Technically in Essex but just under 20 miles from the Tower of London as the crow flies, Harlow Stadium was built in 1995. When the new football stadium was being built two years earlier, Toni Nicholls bought land from receivers and began constructing the new facilities. The aim of the venue was to give people somewhere the watch greyhound racing in style, with executive suites and a restaurant top of the list of what was built within the grandstand. The track was sold from Leaside Leisure Ltd to Barclay Entertainment in 2005, with the venue remaining in their hands since.
Though there are no major races run at Harlow Stadium, it was given a Sky Sports televised meeting in 2011 as a sign of the approval of what it offered. In 2018, SIS signed a deal with the stadium in order to show racing during the week on a regular basis. Whilst it isn’t exactly one of the most popular venues in the United Kingdom, it offers plenty to local racegoers and those that are willing to make the commute from London. That, of course, is relatively easy to do on account of the track’s proximity to the city centre on the outskirts of the capital.
By the time we get to Henlow Stadium, we’re definitely straying outside of the boundaries of the city of London. This is a venue very much worth visiting if you want a sense of what racing used to be like, however, given the fact that it opened its doors for racing for the first time in 1927. It was a flapping track during the early years, allowing around 1,000 people to come in and watch racing. It remained an independent venue until 1976, which was when it finally came under the banner of the National Greyhound Raving Club’s rules for the first time, remaining a licensed track since.
The only major race to speak of that takes place at the track is the Henlow Derby, but there is plenty of racing to watch the rest of the time. There have also been some top-class dogs associated with the track. In 2015, for example, Rio Quattro won the English Greyhound Derby, which was the richest ever price in greyhound racing thanks to the £250,000 prize money attached. In 2020, local planners agreed to allow the site to be developed, with lease-holder Kevin Boothby seeking a five-year extension to the lease he already held, adding to his 10-year lease at Towcester Greyhound Stadium.
Central Park Stadium
Sittingbourne is not the obvious place to host greyhound racing, but a decision was taken in 1990 to build a greyhound stadium and events have been held here ever since. It was built to welcome 6,000 people at capacity, 2,000 of which would be found in the Main Stand. With a trackside restaurant, three bars and places to get some fast food, there is plenty on offer for those that wish to enjoy their time watching the racing. It has also hosted speedway events at one point or another, but it is the greyhound racing that has taken centre stage ever since it first opened.
The likes of the Grand National, Kent Derby and Springbok are all hosted by Central Park Stadium, demonstrating the extent to which it is considered to be a decent track by the greyhound racing world in general. It hasn’t been plain sailing the entire time that the track has been open, however. Financial troubles over the years have caused issues, including when it was forced to close in 1996. When Wimbledon Stadium was closed in 2017, Central Park Stadium was one of the main beneficiaries. In 2021, Arena Racing Company bought the venue.
Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium
If you live in London and fancy a day at the beach, the chances are high that you’re going to head to Brighton to enjoy yourself. As a result, there are plenty of trains going back and forth from the capital, so it would’ve been wrong to exclude it from our list. Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium is owned by Entain, boasting not only the facilities for greyhound racing but also several bars and restaurants. There are meetings held several times a week, which has been the case most weeks since it first opened its doors for customers back in 1928.
Given the fact that it opened nearly 100 years ago, you won’t be surprised to learn that the stadium has undergone several renovations since. That has resulted in a number of decent races being run here, including the Regency, the Olympic, the Brighton Belle and the Sussex Cup. It was known as the Hove Sports Stadium when it first opened, with numerous excellent dogs as well as top-class trainers passing through its doors in the years since. In 2019, a new race over 500 metres was added to the track and in 2022 Entain signed a deal with Arena Racing Company for media rights.
Is Oxford close enough to London to count as a stadium on this list? Possibly not, but there are plenty of academics who will live in the city and head out in order to attend the various colleges at the university, so it feels right to mention it. As well as hosting greyhound racing, which it has done since it was opened as a flapping track in 1939, it is also somewhere that speedway events taken place on a fairly regularly basis. The racing here has occurred pretty much ever since the track opened, including during the Second World War, though it did close on occasion.
By the 1990s, Oxford was considered to be one of the leading provincial tracks in the United Kingdom. As a result, the Greyhound Racing Authority, which owned the track at the time, spent many millions updating the track in the years after the millennium. Interestingly, racing stopped altogether between 2012 and 2020 when the GRA’s parent company was broken apart. It reopened under a lease to Kevin Boothby in 2022 with a speedway meeting, with greyhound racing returning in September that year. There have been numerous top-class races run here, including the Pall Mall Stakes, the Oxfordshire Gold Cup and the Hunt Cup.
London’s Closed Stadiums
To give you a sense of just how popular greyhound racing was at its height, it is worth having a quick look at the venues that were very much considered to be in London. For this list, we have decided to ignore those stadiums within commuter distance and instead focus solely on those that were within the borders of the capital. We will tell you where the stadium was, when it opened and when it closed its doors for the final time, drawing a close to its association with greyhound racing:
|Stadium||Location||Year Opened||Year Closed|
|Brixton Greyhound Stadium||Brixtron||1932||Unknown (Pre-World War II)|
|Clapton Stadium||Lower Clapton||1928||1974|
|Crayford & Bexleyheath Stadium||Bexley||1930||1985|
|Dagenham Greyhound Stadium||Dagenham||1939||1965|
|Hackney Wick Stadium||Hackney||1932||1997|
|Hendon Greyhound Stadium||Hendon||1935||1972|
|New Cross Stadium||Old Kent Road||Early 1900s||1969|
|Park Royal Stadium||Park Royal||1931||1969|
|Perry Hill Stadium||Catford||Early 1930s||1935|
|Stamford Bridge Greyhounds||Stamford Bridge||1933||1968|
|Walthamstow Stadium||Waltham Forest||1933||2008|
|West Ham Stadium||West Ham||1928||1972|
|White City Stadium||White City||1907||1984|
As you can see, the majority of the greyhound stadiums in London opened in the 1930s, with the final one on the list closing its doors in 2017. Some lasted only a short time, whilst others clung on for as long as they could before the lack of interest in greyhound racing as a whole saw them close their doors permanently. Some were more than just greyhound tracks, sometimes also showing speedway or even becoming football grounds.