The Racecourse Association (RCA) remains in talks with the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) regarding the return of spectators for the Royal Ascot meeting between 15 and 19 June.
As reported by the Racing Post, David Armstrong, Chief Executive of the RCA, confirmed that the organisation is still in discussions with the government ahead of the easing of national lockdown restrictions on 17 May.
The lifting of extensive COVID-19 prevention measures could see up to 4,000 racing fans return to the tracks, but Armstrong and the RCA are hopeful that 10,000 could attend Royal Ascot, one of the biggest meetings of the year.
“We’re in discussions with government about what pilots we could successfully deliver as we move into the second phase of the ERP,” the executive commented. “We had proposed one in May but we weren’t quite able to make that work in time.
“The government is keen for us to take part but whether we do or not will not affect our readiness for crowds to return, so I’m reasonably relaxed about it.”
Under the government’s four-stage roadmap for the easing of the UK’s third national lockdown, from 17 May large outdoor sports venues will be able to function at a capacity of 25% with a maximum crowd of 10,000, with further loosening of restrictions from 21 June.
However, spectators have been able to return to some ‘test events’, with crowds attending the Carabao League Cup final on 2 May, whilst the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield hosted 1,000 fans for the World Snooker Championships.
Additionally, up to 20,000 may be able to attend the FA Cup final on 15 May, whilst 25,000 England fans will be able to attend national matches for the upcoming 2020 European Championships.
Armstrong acknowledged the frustration of many racing fans, noting that reopening of pubs and betting shops had made many question why they cannot return to racecourses.
“I get the frustration but I think we have communicated across the sport that we have to follow the protocols and those protocols are set by the government,” Armstrong continued.
“We have to protect the green zone for the athletes. These are valuable people that are needed to keep the sport going.
“I can see where the frustration comes from as they can go down the road and sit outside at a pub having a pint with friends, but what people have to realise is that what happens at the races is imposed on us by government and we have to follow them. If racing could make its own changes to how things are, it might look different, but this is what we have to do.”
The prospect of vaccine passports has previously been discussed by sporting bodies to guarantee the safe return of fans stadiums, with the FA, Premier League, English Football League (EFL), England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Rugby Football League (RFL) all stating that they ‘see the benefits’ of the solution.