The sport of greyhound racing has a long and rich history, and although its popularity has perhaps waned slightly in recent times, there is still a large number of die-hard fans who follow the sport with huge enthusiasm. For some, greyhound racing may be seen as an old-fashioned pursuit, but in truth the sport is continuously evolving and growing in different ways.
What’s clear is that greyhound racing has changed an awful lot in the last 100 years or so. What was once a universally loved pursuit has become more of a niche passion, but that does not stop general sports fans getting involved in the action when big events like the English Greyhound Derby roll around. Let’s take a deep dive into the sport’s history, and look at how things were in the past compared to now.
Once a hugely popular sport that attracted thousands of spectators, greyhound races used to be among the most anticipated events each week. They were a chance for workers to take their mind off the hard labour of the working week and revel in the thrills and excitement of a uniquely entertaining sport. While horse racing at the time was more the preserve of the elite, greyhound racing was hugely popular among the working classes, hence the large numbers of spectators who crammed in to watch.
Indeed, many of the UK’s top sporting venues once hosted greyhound races in the past. Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge is perhaps the most famous example, but since the stadium was redeveloped in the 1990s, it has been solely a football venue.
The sport’s boom came after the Second World War, with millions filing through the turnstiles each year to watch the action unfold. The fact that meetings were held in the evening made the sport hugely appealing for the working classes, and although things have declined in the last few decades, it must always be kept in mind just how popular greyhound racing was in the past.
Nowadays, as previously mentioned, greyhound racing is less universally popular, but that has bred a large number of extremely dedicated supporters, as with any minority sport. There are some who will follow the action all over the country each week, and these are the people who keep the sport growing and evolving.
Of course, some events, like the English Greyhound Derby, transcend this bubble and bring the sport back into the limelight momentarily. When the biggest races come around, general sports fans clamour to witness the action and to bet on greyhounds, even though they might not necessarily take much of an interest in the sport otherwise.
There has been a boost in certain areas recently, with the reopening of tracks which had previously been closed. These green shoots will come as huge encouragement to followers of the sport, as they seek to expose more people to the unique entertainment of greyhound racing.
The coronavirus pandemic has, of course, hit the sport hard, but as we emerge into the post-Covid sporting world, there is hope that greyhound racing will see something of a mini-revival in the coming years.