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Life After Football

By: Nathan Baxter
Date: 16/05/2007

WITH football all but over until August and faced with the prospects of a summer free of live sport I thought it was time to investigate the alternatives. Rather than sit in front of television and watch tennis and cricket I'd actually do what I missed most and attend live games.

Home > Features > 2007 Features > Life After Football

Living in the South East as I do my recent investigations have revealed a staggering variety of live sport which I can attend within an hour's travelling of my home, much of it at the highest level of the sport in question (unlike League Two!). I suspect this will also be true for many people outside the capital, including those living within the Mecca of North East Lincs. Sport besides football is out there!

At the start of my investigation I decided to abandon or ignore all my pre-conceptions about sports. In the past I have despised American Football and dismissed Rugby League as a frivolous pursuit played by Yorkies, but the truth is I have never really tried to understand either of these games, and there are others too. Sports whose rules I do understand such as cricket and tennis I can enjoy, so perhaps the secret is to appreciate the game before condemning it? I am even prepared to cast aside my contempt for Formula One racing, but only for the summer!

Although the season has just finished I have already begun my quest. An early foray into life outside football has been made and more are on the cards.

Outing 1: Dog Racing

Wimbledon was the venue which I selected for my first ever experience of Greyhound Racing, aka "the dogs". The stadium had clearly seen more popular days. Although I went on a Thursday night it's hard to believe Fridays or Saturday would make that much difference. 75% of the cavernous arena was closed to the public, with a few hundred spectators spread thinly over the accessible parts. It felt like the last days of Rome, a once great empire in ruins. Online betting and the abolition of betting tax have clearly taken their toll, although the stadium is also apparently used for speedway (another possible outing). Frankly I'm amazed the stadium hasn't been flogged to developers.

In terms of value for money it has to go down as outstanding! I paid £15 for a "top dog" ticket which included £6 worth of drink vouchers, £6 worth of bets and a £5 food voucher. I think this kind of a ticket is only available for a group of four or above, but it's still cheap for smaller parties.

In terms of the racing itself as many races as possible were packed into the schedule, with minor variations in distance and even a race with hurdles! I think there was a race every 15 minutes so there was not much hanging around between races (as I recall from my trips to Market Rasen, my only experience of the horses).

The prize money on offer for each race was pathetic (less than 100 quid), I should think it would barely cover the cost of transporting a dog there - I doubt many people are making money in this sport on this evidence!

The entertainment that was provided was purely the thrill of gambling: there were too few people and too little at stake to provide much of an atmosphere. As for a spectacle the novelty of watching dogs chase a hare around a track had worn off after a few races. Imagine watching three hours of penalty shoot outs. I started off betting a few quid on the tote, mainly on forecasts (predicting the first two finishers in a race out of six) to try and win a more substantial sum. Only when I started betting with the "proper" bookies at the side of the track, watched the dogs ringside, and bet on dogs to win did I start to enjoy it more. The fiver I place on the 8-1 dog in the fifth race helped as well, although it proved to be the only winner of the night.

Nevertheless my night out ended up costing me less than 20 quid including train fare, entrance and a few drinks.

Overall rating: 6/10

I already have tickets to the Epsom Derby and a Harlequins Rugby League game in the Super League in my possession so will follow up this article with my verdict on these two days out. I'm also exploring other possibilities of live sport so may be back with more.

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