Sheffield Sports Stadium

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Sheffield Sports Stadium's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Sheffield Sports Stadium is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Trackside with managing
director John Gilburn
The panoramic view from the
restaurant, overlooking the racetrack
Sheffield Sports Stadium Ltd, which trades as Owlerton
Greyhound Stadium, was built in 1929 and has been a
wholly-owned subsidiary of A&S Leisure Ltd since 1978.
Recognised as a traditional part of the city of Sheffield for the
quality of its hospitality and place in the leisure scene, it is the
second-busiest greyhound track in the country, employing over
200 staff. In addition to the racing, the stadium also stages
seasonal motorsport meetings, and is complemented by the
sister company’s Napoleons Casino. John Gilburn, managing
director, has been with the stadium for almost 11 years, and
has a 25-year pedigree of industry experience. As a director
of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, John is undoubtedly
informed about all things racing when it comes to the stadium;
this is aptly reflected in the Sheffield Business Award they
received in 2014 for Outstanding Achievement in Sports,
Hospitality and Tourism.
The stadium has a capacity of around 3,500, a 300-cover restaurant, five executive
boxes and six bars. The greyhound racing takes place five days a week: Tuesday, Friday
and Saturday evenings, along with Monday and Thursday afternoons. The facilities
undoubtedly focus on leisure and hospitality, and we are always on the lookout for
new opportunities. All the catering and even our own Tote betting are operated
in-house. The racing is highly regulated, with integrity and welfare being of the
»Chairman: Dave Allen
»Established in 1978
»Based in Sheffield, just three
miles from the city centre
»Services: Greyhound stadium
with outstanding restaurant
and bar alongside seasonal
motorsport meetings
»No. of employees: 207
»Family-owned business, which
also owns Napoleons Casino
»Chairman Dave Allen is a
former jazz singer
Sheffield Sports
What really sets us aside in the industry
against other stadia is our catering.
It’s recognised as being the best at any
greyhound track, and also rivals any
horse racecourse. We have plenty of
customers who just come for the food
and don’t even watch the greyhounds;
we were recently declared the Best
Family-Friendly Restaurant in the
Westside Restaurant & Bar of the Year
Awards 2018. The atmosphere in the
restaurant while the racing is taking
place is absolutely electric. There’s a
spectacular cross-section of customers
– CEOs and executives alongside people
on a casual night out, all cheering on
their dogs at the top of their voices.
A tailored customer service
Central to any hospitality business is its
staff, and key to this are their customer
service skills. We employ a mixture of
people, ranging from students working
part-time to 70-year-olds who have
been with us for 30 years or more. All
staff receive the same level of training,
focusing on customer care and
ensuring that people are happy at the
stadium and want to return, whether
it’s for work or for pleasure.
The important thing is that our staff
understand the needs of the customers
– some want to be treated formally,
some want a laugh and a joke, and
others might just want to do their own
thing. We train our staff to recognise
this and then serve the customer
accordingly. The most important thing
is to treat customers how you would
want to be treated – you won’t go far
wrong. Combining top-class service
with continual attention to detail and
constantly investing in the facilities
ensures a successful business.
Continual growth and
Since I was brought in as managing
director nearly 11 years ago, the
business has flourished. Profitability
increased 20 per cent in my first year,
and has increased year on year by
nearly 10 per cent since. As a result,
we have implemented a series of large
extensions to the stadium. We have
more than doubled the size of the
restaurant, building a new kitchen and
refurbishing the existing facilities along
with the adjoining bar.
This £1.5 million expansion paid for
itself after just two years; we have
since carried out two more major
refurbishments which have been
similarly successful, making this
greyhound stadium the best in the
country. None of this would have
been possible without the influence
of our chairman, Dave Allen, who
believes strongly in reinvesting
profit. The racing has also improved
monumentally – three events every
year at Sheffield Sports Stadium are
shown live on Sky Sports, providing
a great experience and a superb
showpiece for the whole industry.
Though all of these improvements
have brought with them increased
custom due to word of mouth, we do
have to constantly look at broadening
our reach. Database marketing is
integral for continual progress, and
we use social media extensively to
keep in touch with people to keep
reminding them just how good a night The iconic signage of
Owlerton Greyhound
We have plenty
of customers
who just come
for food and
don’t even watch
the greyhounds.
The atmosphere
in the restaurant
while the racing
is taking place is
Highlighting best practice
at the track is. We have some excellent
packages and offers, many of which
include our fantastic food, providing
excellent value for money.
Declines in the gaming industry
We compete against every business
in the leisure industry. All restaurants,
bowling alleys and cinemas along with
home entertainment are proving to be
major opponents in this regard. Online
betting is proving to be a big problem
– people just do not bet track-side
or in betting shops like they used to.
As a result, we have had to turn our
focus to international sales, targeting
countries such as Greece, Spain,
Australia and South Africa to ensure
the value of our media rights.
The decline of the UK high street
betting market is going to have a
massive impact. The government
has stated that the stakes on fixed-
odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will
be reduced from £100 to £2 – we
could see anywhere between 2,000
and 3,000 licensed betting offices
closing. The effects of this will be
two-fold: people who potentially
watch greyhound racing may well
lose interest, and the amount of
money that bookmakers pay into the
British Greyhound Racing Fund could
Finally, there are a small band of
vocal individuals protesting against
greyhound racing. I cannot stress
enough how wrong they are:
greyhounds love to run, and as
chairman of the Sheffield Retired
Greyhound Trust I can wholeheartedly
assure that the welfare of our dogs is
of paramount importance. The protests
and the images they display are
massively inaccurate, but nonetheless
potentially damaging. We ensure that
our dogs are healthy and happy as a
matter of principle, and operate an
extensive injury recovery scheme for all
our greyhounds.
Future developments
We have recently submitted a
planning application for a 500-cover
conference and banqueting suite to
form a new part of the stadium. We
have recognised recent demand and
want to start appealing to a broader
demographic by providing a business-
focused atmosphere. It is a £5 million
project we are financing entirely from
our own funds. This facility is going to
be an absolute game-changer – it will
attract people to both the stadium and
casino who would not normally come
to this part of Sheffield.
Above all else, we want to see a long,
prosperous period of further success.
I want to see our industry continue
to flourish, so that we can ensure a
secure future for everyone involved,
including staff, customers and
People who
racing may
well lose
interest, and
the amount of
money that
pay into the
Racing Fund
could diminish
The Paddock Bar,
looking out onto the

This article was sponsored by Sheffield Sports Stadium. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister