After an interesting quarter for Ladbrokes Coral Director of Stadiums, Ian Smyth, the prospect of a mundane, even boring, drama free, period have finally become a reality.
Three months ago the newly appointed head of the company’s four tracks had just two managers between them, including one who had just announced her retirement.
He had builders preparing to knock down a main grandstand with local residents on speed-dial to the council. There was a running track to be entirely dug up and replaced. Trainers were jumping ship and on one particularly special Tuesday, two thirds of his Crayford runners were stranded on the wrong side of the Thames.
But on Saturday, he welcomes the final round peg in a round hole with the appointment of Diana Illingworth’s Crayford replacement, Pete Broadbridge. With additional vacancies filled at the two former Coral tracks, Smyth feels he now has a management structure fit for purpose.
He said: “We have four different stadium managers with different experience and skills sets and that is a big plus. Pete has been working for Jennings, and Betfred before that, but I think he has spent half of his life at Crayford. There are big family connections there and he really understands what the place is all about.
“At Romford, we have Karen McMillan who was an area manager for Coral in Central London. To do that role, you have to be flexible in your plans and able to just get the job done. In the short time she was been at Romford, she has made an immediate impression and put a number of excellent initiatives in place.
“Brian Murphy at Hove worked in pubs and leisure before becoming an area manager at Ladbrokes. But he has deep roots in greyhound racing. In fact I was chatting to him the other day when his father called, and to his complete surprise, his dad was out with Seamus Cahill.
“And of course we have Paul Mason who is very experienced as a manager at Monmore and his knowledge and advice will be invaluable.
“Finally, I have four good people in place which frees me up to immerse myself in some of the other projects that I am keen to do.
“Obviously Romford will remain the centre of attention, though after the erection of the marquee and the replacement of the track, the progress will now become a bit less visible. Work will be ongoing on the new stand and the old grandstand will be slowly dismantled. It will take a while, but we have constraints to work to in terms of noise and disruption, and there is no pressing deadline.
“Everything is geared towards having the new stand ready by next February/March when we will be in position to start to get regular Friday and Saturday night crowds of 1,500 into the stadium. It will be a challenge but I have never experienced seeing the place with a vibrant crowd and am looking forward to it.
“But you can already start to feel the buzz about the place. I think the owners and trainers are starting to believe in what we are doing. The new running surface has taken a little while to bed in, but the feedback is overwhelming positive. We have meetings planned before the end of the year with the owners and local residents to keep them informed on progress.
“As a group, we are at last where I want to be. No more fire fighting. I have a number of ideas in mind which I am looking forward to seeing implemented. But we will introduce them slowly to make sure we get them right.”