Spectators will be allowed to return to sporting events in Tiers 1 and 2 in England as the COVID-19 cases in those areas decreases. Racing ceased in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic began, and resumed behind closed doors on June 1. There were two small pilot events held at Doncaster and Warwick, but racing continued fanless under the new autumn lockdown imposed last month.
A joint statement from the British Horseracing Authority, The Horsemen’s Group and the Racecourse Association read: “The leaders of British horseracing have welcomed the government’s decision to allow spectators to return to sporting events in Tiers One and Two in England. Horseracing has been taking place behind closed doors since 1st June with participants attending under tight restrictions including medical screening and social distancing.
Since then, we have been working hard with government, including public health officials, to secure the return of spectators. Pilot events with limited numbers were successfully held in September at Doncaster and Warwick, based on detailed plans developed by the Racecourse Association (RCA) in consultation with public health officials.
A series of measures were put in place to keep racegoers and local communities safe. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) worked with the individual racecourses and local public health officials to monitor those attending and no evidence of transmission of the virus was seen.
The change to restrictions announced by the Prime Minister will now be considered by racecourses and the BHA’s medical team. Further engagement will also be required with local public health officials. We thank ministers and officials at DCMS for their support which was crucial to today’s announcement, and all those involved across government and in Parliament.
The details of the government’s new approach to tiering are not due to be announced until later in the week. Until this has been published and individual racecourses are made aware of the restrictions in their area, it will not be possible to confirm which venues will be admitting spectators. We continue to encourage the UK government to allow betting shops to reopen in all areas as part of the change to restrictions.
The BHA and RCA will now be engaging with government to clarify the basis on which spectators will be allowed to attend. With the Racehorse Owners Association, they will also be considering how this will affect the current rules governing owners’ attendance. Further announcements are expected later this week. Discussion with the Scottish and Welsh governments on their plans for spectators continue.
The government last week announced that £40 million of loans would be available to horseracing. Details of the conditions for applying for loans are not expected now until later this week and it is likely to take some weeks before racing agrees an approach to using the available funding.”
BHA Chief Executive Nick Rust said, “This is more good news for racing and for our many millions of fans who have been unable to watch in person the sport they love since March. We know the numbers are limited to begin with and not all venues will be allowed to admit spectators, but this is progress. I am confident that all our racegoers will follow the government’s public health guidelines when they return to racing and this will allow us to increase the numbers attending. We have always said that racing will act responsibly and we all look forward to getting back on the track.”
“Following on from last week’s announcement of financial support, this is a very welcome development for racecourses across England,” said David Armstrong, the Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association. “Even with limited numbers, racecourses can start to re-open facilities for racegoers, hospitality guests and owners. Work continues to prepare for larger-scale pilots across the sports sector and Racing will continue to play a key role in this vital recovery phase.”
Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the Racehorse Owners Association, added on behalf of The Horsemen’s Group, “This is welcome news and a further step forward for racing after a challenging period for the sport. I am grateful to all those across the industry and government who have worked hard to get us to this position and look forward to constructive conversations on owner attendance at racecourses. Owners and other participants have played a vital role in ensuring racing could continue behind closed doors and under tight restrictions. Their support continues to be valued enormously and I very much hope all owners will be able to be back on course soon.”