Under new guidance from the Irish government, crowds at Irish racecourses are due to be limited to a maximum of 500 people for the next six months.
The guidance, according to Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh, is a ‘real concern’ for both the sport and Irish tracks – many of which have suffered as a result of the restrictions on attendance.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin outlined five stages on the Living With COVID roadmap, which covers the next six months. Confirming that Ireland is at level two on the roadmap, the new guidelines will allow for 200 extra people at racecourses if the country progresses to level one, which Kavanagh said should at least herald the return of owners to tracks.
Horseracing will continue behind closed doors, however, if the rates worsen and the country regresses to level three or four. All sporting events would be halted if level five, the most severe, is reached.
Kavanagh told the Racing Post: “It’s not a sustainable number for a lot of racecourses but there’s provision in the legislation to engage on those issues and we will do so in the coming weeks on that. A total of 200 will probably allow owners and 500 doesn’t give much more leeway but we’ll look at that over the course of the coming days.”
Discussing whether racecourses will be able to survive in the long-term without paying crowds, he said: “It’s a real concern. Racecourses can survive one shock, but if you say to a track that you’ll lose a big festival meeting for a second time that creates a real problem.
“There’s specific provision in there regarding large-scale events, so let’s see what that means and what’s involved in that.”
“From reading it, it looks like 200 patrons or spectators will be allowed back on track at level 2 and we’ve said that owners will be the first priority in that respect. Beyond that is a longer-term issue and we’ll continue to work with the relevant authorities on that issue.”
He added: “The other point worth noting is that it’s reassuring to see that even if the level steps up to three and four, there’s specific mention of racing behind closed doors continuing. That’s welcome clarity.
“We’ve followed government guidance throughout this process and will continue to do so. We’ll probably have more to say later in the week regarding arrangements for owners and so on.”