Horse racing excluded from government’s spectator return schedule

Horse racing will not feature in the government’s schedule of 12 sporting events which will see the large scale return of spectators to venues.

Crowds are due to return to horse racing on 17 May, during the third stage of the government’s planned schedule, which will begin on 15 May with the FA Cup final the debut event.

Although the dates have been established, the debate regarding the number of fans allowed to return is still ongoing, with the threshold currently being touted at between 4,000 and 10,000.

Extensive coronavirus testing will occur at all planned events, whilst social distancing will also be enforced among the crowds in attendance. The government intends to use the trial events to form part of its evidence base for the large-scale reopening of the UK’s economy on 21 June.

“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing,” remarked Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Cultural, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Several major racecourses offered to host returning spectators, including Chester and Goodwood, and previous trial runs at Doncaster and Warwick were successful in September 2020.

The DCMS and Racecourse Association (RCA) have been cooperating closely on the issue of returning spectators, since the government first announced its intention to ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on 22 February.

However, unlike sports such as football and snooker, as well as a number of arts and hospitality events, racing will not feature in the DCMS’ planned schedule for crowd returns.

Despite this, the head of the Racecourse Association – as reported by the Racing Post – has argued that the industry ‘shouldn’t be concerned’ about being part of the initial pilots for returning fans.

The recent news follows calls from horse racing and betting industry leaders – including the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) – for the Randox Grand National to be postponed, to coincide with the planned reopening of high street betting shops.

Taking place between 8-10 April, the Jockey Club confirmed last month that the iconic horse race would be rescheduled to support the reopening of English retail betting venues on 12 April.

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