Racing in Britain set to go behind closed doors

The move is likely to take place later in the week, initially until the end of March.

A view of the Gold Cup race in Cheltenham earlier this week.
A view of the Gold Cup race in Cheltenham earlier this week.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

RACING IN BRITAIN is set to go behind closed doors this week, initially until the end of the month, as a result of the escalating coronavirus outbreak.

The four-day Cheltenham Festival went ahead as planned last week, as did meetings over the weekend, but that now looks like changing, with the sport’s leaders preparing to hold fixtures without spectators and under strict conditions.

Fixtures in Ireland were closed to the public from Friday evening and it is a similar situation in Scotland, following guidance from the Irish and Scottish governments regarding the banning of mass gatherings with over 500 people.

A statement issued by the BHA read: “Racing industry leaders are preparing to hold race meetings without spectators and to ensure that the competitors and participants attending only do so under strict conditions.

The sport’s tripartite leadership, including racecourses, participants and the governing body, the British Horseracing Authority, will tomorrow discuss an approach recommended by the industry’s COVID 19 group.

“It is likely to mean that racing moves behind closed doors later in the week, initially until the end of March. Racing’s fixture list will also be considered.

“With race meetings due to happen every day, the intention is to agree a programme that is sustainable in the light of possible staff absences, including in critical roles, which protects industry staff and supports the wider effort to free up critical public services.”

Aintree’s three-day Grand National meeting is due to take place on April 2-4.

The statement added: “The BHA has been closely following official guidance on public health. Details of contingency plans have been shared with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Racing has continued to observe the Government’s request for a proportionate response that takes into account public health and the impact on jobs and businesses.

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“The UK Government has also been briefed on the issues involved in staging the Randox Health Grand National. A decision will be announced as soon as possible.”

Nick Rust, chief executive of the BHA, said: “Racing has worked hard to look after our customers and our staff by following the government’s guidance and taking proportionate action.

“We will agree plans to limit attendance to participants and staff only at race meetings from this week and put in place the contingency plans developed by the industry.”

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