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UK racing bodies call extension of Covid-19 restrictions a ‘financial blow’

| By Robert Fletcher
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Racecourse Association (RCA) and Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) have expressed their disappointment at the government’s decision to extend novel coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions, describing it as a further “financial blow” to the racing industry.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday (14 June) announced the planned relaxation of Covid-19 measures on 21 June would be delayed by four weeks until 19 July, due to concerns over rising case rates and hospital admissions in Britain.

Johnson said the situation would be reviewed after two weeks and added that he was confident the delay would not last longer than four weeks.

However, the three racing bodies said that while they understood the reasons for the delay to the relaxation of rules, they were disappointment by the decision and raised concerns over the further financial impact it will have on the racing industry.

The delay means that racecourses will be limited as to the number of people they can admit to events, though the organisations said they would continue to press the government to allow more spectators to attend meetings.

Current rules mean a maximum of 4,000 people can attend racing events, despite seated stadia being able to permit up to 10,000 fans. However, this week’s Royal Ascot will take part in the government’s Events Research Programme, meaning up to 12,000 people can attend on each of the five days, having undergone lateral flow and PCR testing.

“While it is disappointing that plans for the relaxation of restrictions and the further return of spectators have been delayed, we of course understand the principle that government’s decisions should be evidence-based and public health must come first,” BHA chief executive Julie Harrington said.

“Many of our racegoers will be frustrated by this delay, but we are doing all we can to work with national and local authorities to maximise the number of people allowed to attend race-meetings in safety.”

RCA chief executive David Armstrong said the delay would have a significant commercial effect on racecourses that had sold thousands of tickets for events after 21 June, with a total loss of between £15m (€17m/$21m) and £20m estimated. 

“The industry will continue to press hard for racecourses to receive the same 10,000 capacity limits as seated stadia,” Armstrong said. “Whilst this will lessen the hit it is still far from commercially viable in what is the peak season for welcoming spectators.”

ROA chief executive Charlie Liverton added: “The delayed relaxation of restrictions announced by government is naturally deeply concerning for all those businesses and industries that operate events led businesses. 

“British racing has worked hard with Government officials to ensure that we continued behind closed doors and, whilst this has been of benefit to all participants and stakeholders, including bookmakers, we recognise the rationale for government to delay the further relaxation of restrictions and the eagerly awaited return of spectators.”

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