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Irish horse racing to be shut down as Taoiseach bans all sporting events

Race meetings have still been taking place behind closed doors, but that will stop after today’s announcement.

Updated Mar 24th 2020, 5:48 PM

HORSE RACING IN Ireland is set to be postponed after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar brought a halt to all sporting events this afternoon.

Follow a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team this morning, Varadkar held a press conference to introduce a raft of new measures in order to combat the spread of Covid-19.

a-view-of-the-race-taking-place-in-front-of-empty-stands-as-a-result-to-the-ongoing-covid-19-epidemic Scenes at Clonmel this afternoon.

During his speech, he explained that sporting events — even those taking place behind closed doors — must stop until 19 April at the earliest, with the FAI announcing an extension to the cessation of all football up to that date.

A week ago, Horse Racing Ireland took the decision to continue race meetings without members of the general public, despite their British equivalent and other Irish sporting bodies suspending activities.

There is racing at Clonmel today, but that will be the last action for a number of weeks at least, as the new measures come into effect from midnight tonight. 

rachel-blackmore-observes-social-distancing-as-a-result-of-the-ongoing-covid-19-pandemic Jocky Rachael Blackmore observing social distancing at Clonmel today. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Meanwhile, the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) and Irish Ladies Gold Union (ILGU) have recommended that all golf clubs, practice facilities and courses close with immediate effect until 19 April.

“While golf is an outdoor sport that allows players to exercise in the fresh air, the message is clear,” the statement reads. “People must stay at home to help to contain the spread of Covid-19. ​

“The Unions recognise the need clubs may have for business support at this time. We will monitor options available and engage with the relevant sporting bodies in due course to make representations for our member clubs.

“We know that these decisions are difficult ones to make, but right now, it is our shared responsibility to prioritise the health of our local communities by working together to follow the respective Government guidelines.

In doing so, this will ensure that we get the opportunity to play the game that we all love as soon as it is safe to do so.

“For security and essential maintenance purposes, greenkeeping staff can still attend work. All work must be carried out in strict accordance with government guidelines on physical (social) distancing. Clubs should divide course staff into two teams where possible and if one becomes unavailable, the other team will still be okay to work.

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“You will appreciate that this is a very fluid situation with new developments almost daily. We will continue to liaise with the appropriate authorities, and will ensure that our clubs are kept informed as to recommended best practice at all times.”

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Ben Blake

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