THE owner of Poole Speedway has insisted Pirates remain committed to staying at their long-term Wimborne Road home as their landlords consider closing down greyhound racing and axing jobs.

Poole Stadium Ltd, who have the long-term lease for the venue from freeholder BCP Council, announced the dog race operation at the site could cease.

A statement from the company, which is part of Gaming International, said a consultation had been launched, including the prospect of redundancies.

This sparked mass speculation yesterday over the future of the stadium, which has played host to Poole Speedway’s successes for decades.

Bournemouth Echo: Poole Stadium, which has been home to Pirates and greyhound racing for many yearsPoole Stadium, which has been home to Pirates and greyhound racing for many years

Poole Speedway owner Matt Ford told the Daily Echo Pirates have “every intention” of continuing to race at the stadium.

And should Poole Stadium Ltd look to cut ties with the venue, he said he had already been contacted by many prominent business figures in the region about tabling a plan involving speedway for the venue.

“We have been established in the stadium for 70 years,” said Matt Ford. “The club has no intention of folding. We have every intention of continuing that legacy.

“The most important part is the stadium was left to the people of Poole by Lord and Lady Wimborne to remain a sporting venue.

Bournemouth Echo: Poole Speedway owner Matt FordPoole Speedway owner Matt Ford

“We are the town’s premier sport. This situation and the pandemic is not of our making and it is not because the business has been run poorly.

“We have operated successfully for many years and we want to carry on doing so for as many years as we can.

“It is too soon to say what our stadium landlords are thinking because as we stand at this moment in time the government will still not allow people into stadiums like ours with attendances.”

Pirates’ 2020 season has been wiped out by coronavirus but they currently intend to return to the track next year for competitive racing.

Bournemouth Echo: Pirates have not been able to race this year due to the coronavirus pandemicPirates have not been able to race this year due to the coronavirus pandemic

Matt Ford said Poole Speedway had a very good relationship with their landlords and he hoped Poole Stadium Ltd could find solutions to the challenges their business is facing.

He added: “We need the dust to settle a little and for us all to have a clearer picture of how the government are looking at things. At that point in time, should it be that our landlords were looking to move the stadium on or they had any form of problem with speedway returning, or there was any form of issue, the club would have to seek further advice both from council members and our local MPs.

“Should it be the case that they were looking to offload the stadium, I have been contacted by many of the largest companies in the area, showing an interest in doing something at the stadium, which would certainly include speedway. We are a mile away from this. I hope our landlords find a way of making this whole thing work, bringing in other forms of entertainment and income into the stadium.”

Bournemouth Echo: A packed WImborne Road for a night at the speedwayA packed WImborne Road for a night at the speedway

Clarke Osborne, chairman and CEO of Gaming International, said no “definitive decision” had been made over the future of Poole Stadium Ltd but the consultation process was needed given the circumstance the business faces.

“During the coming weeks of consultation, we will continue to examine all options available to us and will continue to work with our remaining attached trainers as they examine their options,” said Mr Osborne.

“The initial suspension and current restriction of racing has been hugely damaging for all of greyhound racing and particularly for Poole where we have not been able to provide a viable behind closed doors product.”

Bournemouth Echo: BCP Council leader Cllr Vikki SladeBCP Council leader Cllr Vikki Slade

BCP Council leader Vikki Slade said: “I can confirm that due to its location close to the town centre the [stadium] area has been identified as a site of interest within the evolving BCP Local Plan. The purpose of the Local Plan is to provide a framework of policies and site allocations to guide development over the next 20 years and help us meet needs for new homes, jobs, infrastructure and other supporting services within our communities.

“Whilst we are open to discussions on the best use and location for community facilities such as the stadium in the context of existing and future planning policy, the council has no current plans to relocate or develop the stadium, which is leased to a third party.

“If a third party lodged an application to redevelop the site, planning officers would assess it by reference to the current Poole Local Plan, which provides for ‘approximately 430 homes, a modern stadium facility capable of accommodating a variety of sports/events, including exploring the opportunity for providing a home for Poole Town Football Club and speedway, and a mix of other uses that could include offices and other supporting commercial uses.’

“As freeholder, the Council would have to approve any such redevelopment.’’

Pirates promoter Danny Ford told the Daily Echo the announcement on the greyhound operation came as a shock.

Bournemouth Echo: Pirates promoter Danny FordPirates promoter Danny Ford

Discussing where things stand with Pirates, he said: "We've heard nothing from our landlord saying anything different or that we won't be able to run next year.

"Everything is still as planned for 2021 now and unless something changes over the next few months, we will look to be back out racing."

Danny Ford added: "It is no secret Poole Stadium is prime real estate, but the council has said there are no formal plans in place.

"We are 100 per cent committed to bringing racing back and we are absolutely desperate to do so after the catastrophe that has come round this year due to the pandemic, so in 2021 we are hungrier than ever to be back racing."