Belfast Telegraph

Drumbo Park's race is run as Lisburn greyhound track to shut with the loss of 44 jobs

Michael McAdam at Drumbo Park
Michael McAdam at Drumbo Park
Packed stands at a race meeting in 2008
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Forty-four staff have lost their jobs after one of only two greyhound racing tracks in Northern Ireland announced its closure after 11 years in business

The directors of Drumbo Park in Lisburn said a "number of factors" including online betting, lack of Government funding and restrictive licensing laws here were behind the decision to shut up shop, as well as a decline in the number of customers and racing dogs.

Director Michael McAdam said: "We have never been funded. In Ireland there is a semi-state body that helps fund courses but that wasn't available to us here in Northern Ireland. We did ask why, because dogs that race in NI race in Dundalk and Shelbourne Park, and we thought it was only right, but our request fell into a sphere."

Mr McAdam said licensing laws put an end to a Sunday service, adding: "We lobbied the boys on the hill and everyone agreed it needed changed, but no one was prepared to do anything about it, and obviously over the past two years nothing more could be done."

He said the company invested almost £4m to launch the venue in 2009 when "we could charge a premium of £39.95, but over the years we dropped that to £25".

"It was hard to get people in. We were based outside the city and already that was placing an extra £15 or more on top of the cost of a night out. We operated like an airplane; we needed to have every seat filled to make money because running a restaurant had very high overheads. Our wage bill alone was £10,000 a week.

"We had groups in for parties, birthdays, anniversaries and corporate events, but outside that we weren't getting the regular guy and that's because there is no real need to come and watch, because you can get it anywhere."

He said a lack of interest in breeding and racing greyhounds also impacted profits.

"The number of greyhounds available to race over the years has been declining," he added.

After pumping a further £280,000 into the business in recent months via sponsorship, and television and radio advertisements, Drumbo failed to boost interest and went into administration.

Mr McAdam believes that the closure will be felt beyond the Lisburn course.

"Without a doubt this will affect other courses in Ireland," he said.

"When Drumbo Park was opening it took some time for people with greyhounds to go back into the business again, because why would you go to that expense of training a dog when there was nowhere to race them, and that will be the case now.

"Yes, we have Dundalk, and while it's not at the end of the world, it's not a 10-minute drive either."

Today there is just one greyhound course left in Northern Ireland, at the Brandywell in Derry. In a social media post, Brandywell thanked Drumbo Park for its contribution to the sector.

It said: "Your dedication throughout the years has without doubt helped sustain our sport and added to the Northern Ireland economy.

"We at Brandywell would like to thank you, as our Northern partners, for all your help, advice and guidance through what has been a very testing time in our sport. Your closure will, without doubt, have a negative impact all over Ireland."

Mr McAdam advised anyone who made bookings for Drumbo Park by credit card to contact their card provider about refunds.

"Our accountants have started calling everyone who had bookings to inform them that we are now closed. The vast majority of those bookings, around 97%, were paid by card," he said.

"Anyone who paid in cash can contact whoever our administrator will be for more details."

The 14 full-time and 30 part-time staff at the venue were told of the closure yesterday morning.

Belfast Telegraph