AN OXFORDSHIRE farmer has come forward as the man behind an attempt to buy Oxford Stadium.
Robert Tyrrell from Steventon has said he has already contacted developer Galliard about buying the Blackbird Leys stadium and has deposited money with a solicitor to try to clinch the deal.
He is being helped in his bid to buy the stadium by Nick Budimir, a friend of football manager Harry Redknapp, who once owned a greyhound with the QPR boss.
And the pair say that capitalising on both the greyhound racing and speedway at the site could both revive the stadium and offer a blueprint for all other struggling greyhound venues in the UK.
Mr Tyrrell, who sits on Steventon Parish Council, declined to say how much he was offering to pay Galliard, but said he had had the stadium in Sandy Lane independently valued.
The farmer – who has owned racehorses for 30 years but has never before been involved in a bid such as this – said: “I got involved in dog training many years ago and I have been thinking about buying the stadium since last summer.
“I was introduced to Nick one day and we suggested we ought to have a chat and we have been talking ever since. “Before Christmas, I was told people didn’t know who I am and I ought to come forward but at the time we had a live bid in.
“Now we feel it is time to introduce ourselves.”
Last month, millionaire racing track promoter Harry Findlay pulled out of the running to buy the stadium. Greyhound racing at the stadium stopped in December 2012 when owners, the Greyhound Racing Association, said it was no longer financially viable. Since then, developer Galliard has submitted a planning application to build 220 homes on the site.
After Oxford City Council rejected the scheme, Galliard decided to take the issue to a planning appeal which means an independent Government inspector will make a final decision. Brook Adler, Mr Tyrrell’s accountant, said the pair had submitted several bids for the stadium already.
But he said the best chance of buying it would be if and when the inspector decides in their favour. “When planning permission is turned down, then I think Galliard will make a decision and put this site on the market because they will be looking to get the best possible price for it,” he said.
“Then Robert will make an offer. “If it was the case that planning permission was granted, then we would not be in the frame because we have no interest in redeveloping this site for residential use.”
In 2003, Mr Tyrrell was given community service and told to pay compensation after ramming a farm vehicle into his North Star pub in Steventon after being refused service.
Mr Findlay pulled out of the running to buy the stadium because he did not think his plans were sustainable. But Mr Budimir, who said he has been in greyhound racing for around 30 years, said the stadium could be viable because of the wide range of activities that go on there. He said: “The stadium is part of the heritage of Oxford.
“Everyone says greyhound racing is struggling and speedway is struggling, but if you put them all together they are the components of a world-class product.
“There is so much support for this stadium. “We know we can put all these components together.
“It is not fantasy land – this is actual fact. “I honestly believe that this stadium could not only be viable, but a blueprint for every other greyhound track in the country.”
He has also recruited Mr Redknapp into the battle for Oxford Stadium and the former Tottenham Hotspur manager, whose dog, Ballymac Charley, won the Oxford Pall Mall in 2007, has submitted a letter for the planning inspector.
Mr Redknapp said: “The outstanding memory I have of that night was the warmth and kindness of the Oxford people.
“I must have shaken hands and was congratulated by half the stadium and signed an autograph for the other half. Great times. And I do sincerely hope they return soon.”
Former Oxford Stadium promotions manager Mick Wheble said: “Bob Tyrrell has been a greyhound owner and supporter for many years and having him as a potential bidder is great because he knows greyhound racing and knows the stadium.
“There is probably no-one better to buy it.
“There are two other substantial bidders looking to buy it as soon as the inquiry is over and it dispels the myth that the stadium is not profitable.”
A planning inquiry is expected to be held in Oxford in early summer, but a final date has not yet been set.
Galliard did not comment.