A ST HELENS greyhound racing enthusiast has given a financially-stricken venue a new lease of life.
Kevin Brown, 53, took over the running of Westhoughton Greyhound Stadium in Bolton after previous owner Jason Seddon, from Leigh, was forced to close the track.
Kevin, who has been involved in greyhound racing for more than 20 years, says his main priority is to get the stadium financially viable to ensure it remains open as an unregulated, or flapping, track.
Greyhound racing is split into two factions, with licenced tracks running under the control of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain and unregulated tracks operating outside national control.
The flapping fraternity see themselves as greyhound racing’s grass-roots, and Kevin says it is vital that Westhoughton does not come under licenced control as he fears ordinary people will be priced out of the sport.
Kevin, 53, said: “It will be open as a flapping track as long as I can keep it open. It will be a local venue for people to come and race their dogs.
“If it got into the wrong hands it could go to the licenced, and the flapping scene is all I’ve ever known. I’m not interested in the licenced side of things at all, as all they do is run things for betting shops to make money.
“Flapping is a working-class sport for ordinary people. An owner can try their own dog and doesn’t have to have it in kennels, which costs a lot of money. You can get involved in racing for about £10-12 a week.”
Kevin is a familiar face at the Westhoughton track, having previously run a food and accessories stall there, and says his experiences has given him an insight into what needs to be done to make the venue a success.
He said: “I know all the regulars there, and I know how many people have stopped going over the last few years.
“The track has a wide appeal, people come from Scotland, Wales, and from over at Ellesmere Port and the local communities.
“I’m going to be sorting the ticket prices out, as they’ve been too expensive. I’m going to reduce it to £4 for pensioners and £1 for children. It’s vital we get young people interested, they’re the dog enthusiasts and trainers of the future.”
Kevin brings a wealth of experience in greyhound racing, having first got involved after his elder brother Malcolm introduced him to the sport.
Although greyhound racing has declined in popularity over the years, with three flaps in the Wigan and St Helens area alone closing, Kevin is hopeful he can continue the traditions of the sport in the 21st century.
He said: “Lots of flaps, many of the places I learnt about the sport, have shut down and gone for building.
“I’m not in this to make any money, if I break even every month I will be happy with that.
“The secret to running it is to keep people happy and give them what they want, I would say.”