UK Spectators to Return No Earlier Than Mid-May

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Empty stands at Sandown | Racingfotos.com

Crowds will not return to UK racecourses until mid-May at the earliest Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, when discussing the UK's path out of its current COVID-19 lockdown.

Schools will reopen on Mar. 8, but grassroots sport will not begin prior to Mar. 29, along with larger groups being allowed to gather in parks and gardens. Johnson is planning on crowds back at sports venues no earlier than May 17.

Racing has taken place behind closed doors in England since it resumed in June with the exception of a few pilot events and a few cards prior to the holiday season. Owners were on-course this past summer beginning in July, but have also not been able to attend since the latest lockdown started.

Outdoor venues and outdoor events will be limited to 4,000 people or half-full, whichever is lower, while indoor events are capped at 50% capacity or 1,000, whichever is lower. Special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely disbursed are limited to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower. However, pilots events will be held to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing, using other mitigation efforts such as testing, the Government said. The earliest date capacity limits could be removed is on June 21, two days after the end of Royal Ascot.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) made the following statement regarding the UK Government's roadmap out of COVID-19:

“On behalf of British racing and all those who work in our industry, we very much welcome the government's announcement today of a roadmap for the removal of the current COVID restrictions.

“The whole sport has worked hard to abide by our race-day protocols to allow racing to continue behind closed doors and support the many livelihoods that depend on our industry. British racing's classification as an elite sport made this possible. But we do miss owners and we do miss spectators whose presence at meetings contributes so much to the thrill of our sport.

“We have already introduced additional measures to reduce the risks of transmission of the virus and have further options under consideration. We will now engage with government to highlight our ability to move beyond the current limitation on essential staff only as soon as that is possible and allow the return of owners.

“Racing continues to benefit from the incredible loyalty shown by owners. We will clarify as soon as possible when they can return to race-meetings, and when amateurs can resume riding.

“The government has also published details today on the potential timings for the return of spectators to elite sport.  We have further discussions with officials scheduled which will enable us to draw up specific proposals for race meetings, including potential pilot events. We also expect to hear further details of the plans for Scotland and Wales which are not covered by today's announcement.

“Whilst the publication of dates is a very positive sign, the absence of spectators from our big events is continuing to put a strain on racing's revenues. This has been exacerbated by the closure of betting shops. Our financial discussions with government are ongoing.”

A statement from the Racecourse Association was released later in the day which read: “The RCA welcomes the announcement made by the Prime Minister outlining the route map out of national lockdown and a timeline for the safe return of spectators to major outdoor events.

“We will continue to work closely with our member racecourses, Government and relevant health and safety authorities to ensure that racegoers are amongst the first sports fans to safely return and enjoy a day's racing.”

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