Racing rocked as return of crowds put on hold by Government

Racing could face up to six more months of operating behind closed doors.
Racing could face up to six more months of operating behind closed doors.

Plans to return spectators to sporting events at the beginning of October have been shelved by the Government, after a nationwide increase in the infection rate of Covid-19. 

Sporting events have been taking place behind closed doors since June, and it was hoped that crowds would be allowed to return in limited numbers next month - with Warwick hosting a pilot event that saw just shy of 500 in attendance on Monday.

However, with fears that a second wave of Coronavirus is on the horizon, new measures have been introduced by the Government, which Boris Johnson warned could last for ‘perhaps six months’ when addressing the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“We have to acknowledge that the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events,” he said.  

“So we will not be able to do this from 1st October and I recognise the implications for our sports clubs which are the life and soul of our communities.”

The news will be worrying for the racing industry, and several racecourses have already warned that they face large operating losses if they can’t get crowds back soon, while Doncaster lost a reported £250,000 when their proposed pilot event at the St Leger meeting was cancelled at the eleventh hour earlier this month. 

Meanwhile, the pilot scheme which was set to see Newmarket welcome 1000 spectators a day for this week’s three-day Cambridgeshire Handicap meeting has been paused, and that event will now take place behind closed doors. 

The announcement was met with concern by the British Horseracing Authority, and its Chief Executive Nick Rust urged to Government to provide financial support to the industry. 

He said: "Racing’s leaders are responding to this crisis by working together like never before. We are working to a recovery plan, but today’s announcement will set back our progress. We will urge the government to provide financial support, as they have indicated they are considering, and to accept the case for urgent reform of the Levy.

"Our loyal owners and our key international investors have stood by us and we ask government to work with us to maintain that confidence in racing and in Britain."

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