British Horseracing's Executive Committee are working on plans to restart racing in the country on 1 June, after new government guidelines confirmed this as the earliest date from which sporting events may be held.
Guidelines released yesterday (11 May) say sport may return – albeit without spectators – from 1 June, provided a number of key conditions are met to ensure the country-wide lockdown enforced as a result of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) can be eased.
While fans would not be present in order to reduce “large-scale social contact,” these sporting events would instead be broadcast to spectators.
This would make the British Horseracing Authority's intended May restart date impossible. Instead, the sport's Executive Committee, which is made up of the British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association, The Racehorse Owners’ Association and the National Trainers Federation, will aim to go live at the earliest possible opportunity, on 1 June.
The committee said it would publish a timeline of the necessary steps towards the sport's return within the next seven days. The British Horseracing Authority said it has held discussions with Public Health England and England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, as well as officials in Scotland and Wales, to develop “new processes and protocols” in order to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading.
“The sport will be focusing its efforts during the remainder of May on finalising and agreeing these changes across the industry and supporting everyone to understand and adopt them,” the Authority said.
The government also said that “leisure facilities” may open from 4 July if the virus continues to be controlled, but it did not mention casinos or betting shops specifically.
Sport in the UK was suspended in March as the country locked down to limit the spread of the virus. The English Premier League suspended all games on 13 March after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi both tested positive for the disease.
The English Football League, the organisation that manages the three divisions below the top-tier Premier League, also suspended all games, as did the FA Cup and Women’s Super League.
Premier League clubs met yesterday (11 May) to determine a plan for resumption of the 2019-20 season but are yet to announce any concrete plans. Premier League chief exectuvie Richard Masters said all 20 clubs wished to finish the 2019-20 season, but the league will still have to create a plan that works for players and managers.
“There was a strong desire to discuss everything in the round and to agree a collective way forward,” Masters said. “A really strong collective will to complete the season remains. However, our priority will always be the safety of players, coaches and managers, staff, supporters, and the wider community. Nothing will be agreed until we have spoken to both the managers and players.
“We welcome these first steps and are ready to play our part. We are working flat out with clubs and stakeholders – Government, our broadcast partners, The FA, the EFL, PFA and the LMA – to create a responsible, safe and deliverable model to complete the season.”
Last week (6 May), the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL), the sport’s governing body in Germany, announced that the top-tier Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga second division will resume play on 16 May, making it the first major European league to restart.