BHA to review resumption plans for British racing

14 April 2020

The British Horseracing Association (BHA) will meet this week to discuss when racing can resume, despite the UK remaining on lockdown due to the ongoing novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Racing has been suspended since 18 March and is not scheduled to resume until the end of April at the earliest. The BHA initially said it would stage horse racing behind closed doors prior to announcing a full suspension.

The UK government introduced a nationwide lockdown on 23 March and though this had been due to expire yesterday (13 April), the restrictions remain in place. The government will make a decision later this week as to whether the measures will be extended or eased in some form.

Current measures include a ban on public gatherings of more than two people, while the government also said it would halt all emergency services support for mass gatherings.

However, the Covid-19 Racing Industry Group’s Resumption of Racing Group has been working with horsemen, racecourses and other stakeholders on a plan to resume racing behind closed doors as soon as possible.

The group has focused on a framework that will enable racing to restart on daily basis in a phased and controlled. This will include horses racing under strictly controlled conditions at locations that meet certain criteria, but not until approved by the BHA board and government.

“We have followed government guidance throughout this crisis,” BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman said. “When they said it was still safe to continue mass gatherings, we continued. When they said the emergency services could no longer support mass gatherings, we stopped.

“Now it seems clear that – like so many other areas of leisure and business activity – sport will need the support and approval of government to resume, even if that is behind closed doors.

“The work that’s been done to develop a resumption plan is excellent and has demonstrated that racing would be ready to resume when that becomes possible," Wayman added. “We are liaising with government as part of our development of a responsible, coordinated plan for the return of sport when we’re told it’s safe to do so.”

The UK is not the only horse racing market to have been hit by the coronavirus, with Ireland, France and New Zealand among the other countries to have also stopped racing during the outbreak.