UK racing to go spectator-free

16 March 2020

The British Horseracing Association (BHA) has announced that scheduled racing events will continue to take place, albeit without spectators and with restrictions on the number of attendees, as a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

This has been agreed by the BHA, the Racecourse Association and the Horsemen’s Group. It will be in place for all races in England, Wales and Scotland, initially until the end of March, starting with meetings at Taunton and Wetherby racetracks from tomorrow (17 March).

The BHA explained that it aims to hold race meetings as scheduled wherever possible, but admitted that the situation was very fluid, meaning cancellations were possible. It would make every effort to notify customers and the betting industry at the earliest opportunity, the association added.

“Racecourses and racing yards are embedded in their local communities and we are acutely aware of our responsibilities to protect public health,” BHA chief executive Nick Rust explained.

“The restrictions we are putting in place to close racing to spectators and limit attendees will reduce demand on public services. We also have a range of measures in place designed in response to the government’s guidance on public health and we will continue to update these as appropriate.”

This forms part of a plan to continue horse racing in the most sustainable fashion, while minimising risk to staff and freeing up public services.

The BHA will notify the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of its plan today (16 March).

“We acknowledge that today’s decision will also impact on local businesses, especially hotels and restaurants, who are struggling at this time,” Rust continued.

“We are following the government’s advice to strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining business activity and will continue to do so.

“We thank our customers and staff for their support.”

News that British racing is set to continue comes in the wake of almost all other elite sporting events being postponed in the wake of Covid-19.

According to updates from operators such as William Hill and GVC Holdings, major events such as the Uefa European Championships are likely to be postponed or pushed back a year.

The pair also expect major racing events such as the Grand National and Royal Ascot to be cancelled.