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Racing British racing on the brink without crowds

BRITISH racing faces a “severe threat” if crowds are not allowed back on racecourses for another six months — as suggested by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The stark warning was issued on behalf of racing’s tripartite leadership bodies (British Horseracing Authority, Racecourse Association and Horsemen’s Group) following today’s announcement that plans to get spectators back to sporting events from October 1 had been postponed in response to a national resurgence in coronavirus infection rates.

Barely 24 hours after Warwick had staged a seemingly successful pilot scheme with up to 450 racegoers, hopes were dashed that Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire meeting could hold something similar later this week.

A statement read: “The delay to the public’s return to sporting events is a serious blow to the horseracing industry and to the people and communities who depend upon it for their living.

“Our sport has worked hard with public health officials to return safely and carry out pilot events. The exemplary response from the spectators in following the measures we put in place has shown that organised events can be run safely. We look forward to a full evaluation of the pilots and for the evidence to be used to inform future decisions about sporting events.

“Despite all those efforts, our industry is now facing a severe threat.

“We are the second most attended spectator sport in the country. Without the millions of people who normally enjoy a day at the races, many people’s jobs are at serious risk, as are the businesses they work in.

“We know this is recognised from the regular discussions we have had with ministers and we thank them for their strong support in these difficult times.

“We have kept the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments updated on the financial impact of Covid and the effects on the rural economies in which so many of our racing staff live and work.

“We have told the UK government our racecourses were facing a loss of £250 to £300 million of revenues this year, which in turn means less prize money flowing through to our participants and our owners.

“We will be conducting a further economic impact assessment and will work with government to put in place financial assistance to protect livelihoods and rural communities.

“We have worked closely with the betting industry during our safe return from lockdown. Responsible betting is part of the fun of racing. It benefits both industries, flowing back into racing to create jobs and fund the care of horses.

“But British racing does not benefit to the extent of our European counterparts for structural reasons. We have seen growing signs that our best horses are being lured elsewhere by the promise of greater financial rewards. We believe the case for urgent reform has been made. This will be part of the assessment we share with government.”

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