UK racing will maintain the tightest control on spectators reattending its racetrack and hospitality venues, following the government’s announcement that it will lift lockdown restrictions across England from 3 December.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) welcomed the decision by the government to allow ‘limited crowds’ to return to tier-1 and tier-2 sporting venues, having been in lockdown since 1 June.
Confirmed by DCMS on Monday, crowds of up to 4,000 will be allowed to attend ‘outdoor sporting venues’ across tier 1 areas of England, with limits of 2,000 spectators for tier 2, and no fans allowed for tier 3 areas.
Working with the Racecourse Association (RCA) and The Horsemen’s Group (HG), the BHA underscored that racing venues are prepared to welcome back spectators safely – having held ‘pilot events’ with limited numbers at Doncaster and Warwick racetracks last September.
Moving to reopen its venues, the BHA stated that its top priority would be to ensure the safety of local communities residing near racetracks, where stakeholders will work with local public health officials to stop the transmission of the virus.
BHA Chief Executive Nick Rust said: “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.”
Further positive developments saw the government announced last week that racing had qualified to receive a £40 million winter relief loan, to be made available for racetrack and welfare maintenance.
The BHA said that it would review details of the loan’s conditions which will be published later this week, before agreeing on ‘an approach to using the available funding’.
Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the RCA, said: “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.”