Issuing a statement, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has confirmed that all British horseracing will be suspended until the end of April.
The BHA stated that after taking into account the government’s recent advice regarding the growing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the only option was to suspend all racing in order to ensure that safety measures are secured.
Nick Rust, Chief Executive of the BHA, commented: “This is a national emergency the likes of which most of us have never seen before. We’re a sport that is proud of its connection to rural communities and to the local businesses that support our industry.
“But our first duty is to the health of the public, our customers and to racing industry participants and staff so we have decided to suspend racing following the government’s latest advice.
“Racing is a family and I know we will pull together over the coming days, weeks and months and support each other. By stopping racing, we can free up medical resources, doctors and ambulances, be they private sector or NHS, to assist in the national effort to fight this virus. And we can support racing industry participants and staff as they face up to the personal challenges ahead and care for their own families.”
The government’s recent press conference regarding COVID-19 stated that it would no longer support all major mass gatherings, whilst also urging people to avoid unnecessary social contact.
Racecourses and racing have obligations to ensure the safety of participants and provide medical cover which as per the new guidelines cannot be fulfilled in these circumstances, resulting in the BHA’s decision.
The suspension will begin as of 18 March, meaning that the two closed-door races at Wetherby and Taunton will be the last horseracing events in Britain for over a month.
Rust continued: “There will be difficult months ahead for many of us. We need to focus now on ensuring that we can continue to look after our horses as the virus affects the thousands of participants and staff who dedicate their lives to caring for animals. We need to do what we can to support businesses inside and outside racing and the many people whose livelihoods depend upon this £4 billion industry.
“We are in constant contact with the government which understands the very significant consequences of this decision for jobs and businesses. We will work with them to do our best to manage the impact.
“Racing leaders will keep today’s decision under constant review and endeavour to keep all customers, participants, staff and dependent businesses informed as the situation progresses.”
Reacting to the BHA’s suspension, FTSE250 GVC Holdings issued a market note underlining an ‘estimated incremental impact’ on 2020 EBITDA guidance of approximately £20m – £25m per month before mitigating actions.
A postponement of UK racing had been underlined as one-of-three ‘COVID-19 scenarios‘ assessed by GVC in a statement to investors published yesterday.
Facing a number of potential COVID-19 disruptions, it underlined that the group maintains access to a £550 million revolving credit facility, which ‘remains undrawn’ as the company still has access to a £260 million cash reserve.