Covid-19: British Racing To Continue Behind Closed Doors

Covid-19: British Racing To Continue Behind Closed Doors
© PA
Punters will not be granted access to UK race meetings at least for the remainder of the month

Horse racing in Britain will take place behind closed doors from Tuesday until the end of March at the earliest, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced on Monday.

A statement from the sport’s tripartite leadership, including the Racecourse Association, The Horsemen’s Group and the BHA also indicated that some fixtures during that period may have to be cancelled in order to protect industry staff and to free up critical public services.

Tuesday’s fixtures at Taunton and Wetherby will be the first domestic meetings to go behind closed doors, while the big weekend fixtures at Newbury and Kelso, which will both stage races live on ITV, look set to go ahead.

‘To Protect Public Health’

Explaining the decision to go behind closed doors, outgoing BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: “Racecourses and racing yards are embedded in their local communities and we are acutely aware of our responsibilities to protect public health.

“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.

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

"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.”

The BHA also confirmed that they would be making a statement on whether Aintree’s Grand National meeting on April 4 will go ahead ‘as soon as possible’.

Racing in Scotland and Ireland is already taking place behind closed doors, but authorities in France have decided to shut the sport down altogether, with an announcement that there will be no racing until April 15 at the earliest.

Harrington in Self-Isolation

It was also announced on Monday that leading trainer Jessica Harrington had decided to self-isolate for two weeks after attending last week’s Cheltenham Festival.

The damaging cost of the loss of most major sporting events has had a hugely damaging effect on betting company share prices.

Flutter Entertainment, who operate Betfair and Paddy Power, has estimated a drop in revenue of £90-110 million, but that would increase by a staggering £30m a month should racing be suspended altogether.

Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, Boylesports has decided to close all of its outlets in response to the ongoing efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19. The closure of the 278 retail shops will take effect at 8pm, Wednesday March 18 and will remain in effect until after March 29 at the earliest.

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