Belle Vue Stadium

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Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester, UK

Belle Vue Stadium is a greyhound racing track in Belle Vue, Manchester,[1] where the very first race around an oval track in Britain was held on 24 July 1926. It is also used for speedway as the home ground of Elite League team Belle Vue Aces since 1988 and since 1999 has British Stock Car Association (BriSCA), the British governing body for stock car racing and banger racing. The stadium holds a number of BriSCA events and has become one of the most popular venues in the North-West of England.

The track has always been the property of Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. (GRA), which has invested heavily in it right through to the current day. The stadium offers luxury glass-fronted grandstands, restaurant, hospitality boxes, and several bars. Greyhound racing takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings.[2]

Greyhound racing[edit]

In 1925 Charles A. Munn, an American businessman, made a deal with Smith and Sawyer for the rights to promote the greyhound racing in Britain.

Although the earlier attempt to introduce mechanical racing at Hendon had almost been forgotten, the pastime of coursing was as strong as ever in Britain. Fortunately for Munn, the first person he contacted with regards to reintroducing greyhound racing into Britain was Major L. Lyne Dixson. The Major was a leading figure in British field sports and was quickly won over to the idea presented to him by the American entrepreneur.

Finding other supporters proved to rather difficult however. With the General Strike of 1926 looming, the two men scoured the country in an attempt to find others who would join them. Eventually they met Brigadier-General Alfred Critchley, who in turn introduced them to Sir William Gentle JP. Between them they raised £22,000 and formed the Greyhound Racing Association Ltd.

When deciding where to situate their new stadium, Manchester was considered to be the ideal place because of its sporting and gambling links. Close to the city centre, the consortium erected the first custom-built greyhound stadium and called it Belle Vue, where the very first race around an oval track in Britain was held on 24 July 1926. More than 1,700 people were attracted to the meeting where they watched a greyhound called Mistley win over 440 yards (402 m). By June 1927, the stadium was attracting almost 70,000 visitors a week.

Six races with seven dogs in each race were held in the first meeting. Fifty years later a stand was named after Mistley, the winner of the first race. Running the quarter-mile flat course in 25 seconds, Mistley romped home eight lengths clear at 6–1.

Belle Vue increased the number of runners per race to seven, but after the formation of the NGRC in 1928 the maximum number of dogs per race was limited to six.

Competitions[edit]

During the year there are two major greyhound events held at Belle Vue, they are -

Criticism[edit]

Since 2007 Greyhound Action, an animal rights organisation which campaigns for an end to greyhound racing, has been having weekly protests outside the races each Saturday and occasionally on Fridays.[3][4] Concerns were raised about the high injury rates in 2010 [5] In 2008 The Sunday Times revealed that Belle Vue dogs were being sent for research at Liverpool vets school by Trainer Richard Fielding [6] An article in the Sunday Express, from 2012, also branded the kennels of two Belle Vue trainers, named as Beverly Heaton and Nigel Saunders, as disgusting. The article alleged that dogs were kept in cramped dilapidated kennels without heating and in some cases doors and that faeces and urine had not been adequately removed. An animal rights pressure group, Greytexploitations, provided video footage to substantiate allegations of the poor conditions, these included the shocking image of a Greyhound skull on a dog waste heap.[7] [8]

Speedway[edit]

Main article: Belle Vue Aces
Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester, UK

A grass-track meeting took place here on 5 May 1928, with Syd Jackson emerging as the winner. The dirt track was stated to be similar in size and shape to Wimbledon and Harringay, with the first meeting going ahead on 28 July 1928, when Frank Arthur won the Golden Helmet.

When the stadium at Hyde Road was sold in 1987, the Aces moved back to the Greyhound Stadium, under the promotion of Peter Collins, John Perrin and Don Bowes. The opening meeting of the new era of the Aces was held on 1 April 1988, and saw Belle Vue take on Bradford Dukes in the Frank Varey Northern Trophy. However, the match was abandoned after just two heats due to a waterlogged track (rain), with the Aces leading the match.

Due to other commitments, Peter Collins resigned from his promotional position in 1989, leaving Perrin and Bowes in charge of the Aces. With the amalgamation of the two leagues, Belle Vue became members of the British League Division One in 1991.

A further management change in 1994 saw George Carswell link with Perrin and Bowes as co-promoter. Both divisions of the British League joined together to form a 21 team Premier League in 1995, with the Aces becoming founder members.

A further promoting change in 1995 saw John Hall replace Don Bowes, to link up with Perrin and Carswell. The Premier League broke in two at the end of 1996, with the Aces becoming members of the new Elite League, where they have remained up until the present day.

A change of promotion occurred in late 2004 as John Perrin sold the club to Workington Promoters Tony Mole and Ian Thomas. This was Thomas's second stint in charge of The Aces. A further change in ownership occurred in December 2006 as ex-captain Chris Morton along with David Gordon and Gordon Pairman bought the club from Tony Mole and Ian Thomas.

Belle Vue still ride at Kirkmanshulme Lane and race nights are nearly always on Monday nights with an occasional Wednesday and Sunday meeting, along with Good Friday morning.

Rugby league[edit]

Main article: Broughton Rangers

In 1933, Broughton Rangers relocated to the Belle Vue Stadium inside the speedway track. In 1945/46, Broughton rebranded themselves as Belle Vue Rangers. The team folded after the 1954/55 season.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°27′40″N 2°11′3″W / 53.46111°N 2.18417°W / 53.46111; -2.18417