If you don’t already know, ‘flapping’ is the name given to unlicensed greyhound racing, and flapping tracks were once fairly common in the UK, with around 160 of them running in 1948.
There are now just a few left now though, and recently, the last flapping track in England closed down after 84 years in business.
The track I am talking about is Askern Racetrack, in Doncaster.
Before going any further I should just point out that unlicensed doesn’t mean illegal, or dodgy, or anything like that.
Flapping stadiums are run in just the same way is licensed greyhound racing, but the lack of regulation means there is no paperwork or any extra cost associated with running it and entering the dogs. The tracks tend to be a little shabbier shall we say, but they are legitimate.
This has led to problems in the past though, such as doping or welfare standards not being met, but it isn’t common.
That said, let’s have a look at what happened to Askern Greyhound Stadium, the last independent flapping track in England.
When Did Askern Greyhound Stadium Close?
The last meeting at Askern took place on the 23rd of September, 2022.
The fact that I only found out about it around a year later speaks volumes about the issues facing the sport of greyhound racing more generally, but especially flapping.
In truth, flapping is all but extinct now – there is just a single flapping track still in operation, in Fife, Scotland.
David Dennett, the owner of Askern since the late 1970s, took the decision to close the stadium after receiving “an offer”, but did not divulge his reasons.
Those close to him though, have suggested that a number of recent bereavements, alongside his nearing retirement age, just meant that David had had enough.
When asked about the changes to the sport over the years, David commented that other than declining numbers, it was the type of people who visited which had changed the most.
It used to be mostly locals who would hang around in the club house after the race for drinks and socialising, but as time went on, fewer locals came out and more people were travelling in, and those people did not stop afterwards, so revenue went down and the atmosphere weakened.
The final meeting at Askern was attended by a bumper crowd, and attracted some huge bets too. There was even a full length documentary made about the track and its’ closure that you can watch below:
Will Askern Greyhound Stadium Re-Open?
Actually, yes it will.
If you look at what became of most former greyhound stadiums they have been developed and had houses built on them, but Askern will have a different future.
Askern will be saved as a greyhound stadium, although it will not come back as a flapping track.
Much like the Valley Stadium in Wales, when Askern is revived, it will come back as a licensed greyhound racing venue.
This is excellent news for the industry as a whole, and for the locals who enjoyed visiting as a flapping track, and although an old tradition would be dead and gone and the people running the business might change, the average bettor wouldn’t notice any difference.
In fact, the place will be getting an upgrade.
The notoriously private Watson Family have bought the site, and this is significant because they already own Doncaster Greyhound Stadium which is just 6 miles away.
They are planning a £500,000 investment, knocking down and rebuilding the stand and the kennels, and turning the place into a more modern establishment that meets licensing requirements.
On top of this, the Watsons are planning to build their own greyhound farm and to build a fully operational veterinary practice on site, so any dogs requiring care can get immediate attention.
The hope is to re-open in 2024, and to have 3 meetings a week initially.
Askern Flapping Track may now be nothing but some happy memories, but Askern Greyhound Stadium will rise from the ashes.