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Horse racing in Ireland can resume behind closed doors in June 'under strict protocols'

The sport will be allowed to return on 8 June.

A general view of racing in Clonmel.
A general view of racing in Clonmel.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Updated May 15th 2020, 4:01 PM

HORSE RACING IN Ireland can return under ‘strict protocols’ and behind closed doors on the earlier date of 8 June, the Government has announced.

Racing was initially scheduled to return in phase three of the government’s guidelines on 29 June. But following submissions from Horse Racing Ireland, that date has now been brought forward.

The 8 June date was confirmed by a minister to The Journal, while a number of strict Covid-19 protocols will be enforced to allow horse racing get underway again, according to a statement released by Horse Racing Ireland.

Only the key personnel needed to run the fixture will be permitted to be on site when horse racing resumes.

All those in attendance will be subject to health surveying in advance and thermal temperature screening on entry. 

Wearing face coverings will be mandatory for many attendees including Jockeys, stalls handlers, medical professional and security staff.

Social distancing will also be strictly enforced by a dedicated Covid-19 protocol officer at each fixture.

“We are grateful to be one of the sectors permitted to go back to work and acknowledge the responsibility on everybody in racing to ensure the events are run in a safe way,” said Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, Brian Kavanagh.

We know from our own experience in March when we safely ran ten meetings behind closed doors – and from what is happening in other countries like France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and America – that racing can be staged safely within the requirements of social distancing. 

“With significant input from the IHRB’s chief medical officer Dr Jennifer Pugh, we have strengthened the HRI Covid-19 protocols and so, while race fixtures will return in Ireland on 8 June, they will be very different from what people will have experienced before.”

Kavanagh added:

We will publish our full protocols tomorrow and will require any key personnel necessary to run a race fixture to read the document in full.

“There must be full compliance with these protocols and to assist the industry in becoming familiar with the changed workplace, a series of webinars on the Covid 19 Protocols will be announced next week.

“On Sunday we will release a revised fixture list up to the end of June, including confirmation on when the Classics, traditionally scheduled for this time of year, will be run.”

10 fixtures were held behind closed doors before racing was suspended at the end of March.

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Meanwhile, The Irish Greyhound Board has released a statement in relation to this announcement, saying they are seeking “full clarity” on the decision.

The full statement reads:

“The IGB notes the Government decision today to permit horse racing with effect from 8th June 2020 and would have been of the understanding that such decision also extended to greyhound racing. This would not appear to be the case.

“The IGB has sought full clarity from the Department in relation to the decision.

Greyhound racing has proven its ability to run ‘racing behind closed doors’ and successfully complied with all Covid 19 protocols when operating on a closed doors basis during early March 2020,” said Chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board, Frank Nyhan.

“The strict enforcement of a ‘one person, one dog’ policy with a small number of regulatory personnel on site ensures a well-managed activity with all risks minimised. The extensive outdoor areas at our tracks enables social distancing requirements to be fully met without difficulty.

“The protocols operating during March have been enhanced and physical alterations are being undertaken at our stadia to further facilitate compliance with these enhanced protocols.

“The IGB is at a loss to understand why, on a risk basis, greyhound racing is not assessed as being capable of operating behind closed doors from 8th June next as it is clear that all necessary protocols can be fully complied with.

“The IGB is absolutely intent on ensuring that all of its tracks and stadia operate to the necessary standards while Covid 19 remains with us.

“The arrangements already in place , and the further enhancements proposed ensure that the greyhound community can safely participate in racing behind closed doors and enable the greyhound racing industry to be restarted and provide an outlet for the health and welfare of our greyhounds.

“We are taking the matter up immediately with the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine to obtain clarification on the overall situation.’”

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