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Spectators unlikely for six months as Prime Minister reveals new restrictions

Tue 22 Sep 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that initial plans for spectators to return to sporting events from October 1 will not now go ahead.

The decision comes as a big blow to racing, and it was no surprise at all when Newmarket subsequently announced on its website that plans to welcome crowds of up to 1,000 at each of the three days of its Cambridgeshire meeting – beginning on Thursday – have been abandoned on Government advice.

Prime Minister Johnson also stated that the new restrictions coming into place may last for “perhaps six months”.

The latest course of action has been brought about by a rising coronavirus infection rate.

Speaking on Tuesday lunchtime in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Johnson said: “We have to acknowledge that the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events, so we will not be able to do this from October 1 and I recognise the implications for our sports clubs which are the life and soul of our communities.”

He added: “We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments, new forms of mass-testing but unless we palpably make progress we should assume that the restrictions that I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months.

“For the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the House and the country that our fight against it will continue.”

The announcement comes barely 24 hours after Warwick staged a successful pilot event, with around 450 spectators on track.

 Rust will urge the government to provide financial support
Rust will urge the government to provide financial support

Following the Prime Minister’s Commons update, The Chief Executive of the BHA, Nick Rust, said: "Racing’s leaders are responding to this crisis by working together like never before. We are working to a recovery plan, but today’s announcement will set back our progress. We will urge the government to provide financial support, as they have indicated they are considering, and to accept the case for urgent reform of the Levy.

"Our loyal owners and our key international investors have stood by us and we ask government to work with us to maintain that confidence in racing and in Britain."

Nevin Truesdale, Group Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, said: “The two pilot events staged by Racing showed that we can host people safely with so much outdoor space for social distancing and stringent protocols in place. Nevertheless we respect the Government’s decision to pause their pilot programme across sport as part of trying to reduce contact between people.

“Without paying spectators, the largest revenue streams for many sports have been cut off for six months to date and, with no prospect of a change soon, this threatens the survival of sports organisations and the many livelihoods they support.

“Now is the time that sport needs the Government to step in and provide direct support to the industry, as they did when awarding £1.57 billion to the arts in July. Sport and physical activity sustains 600,000 jobs and contributes more than £16 billion per year to the UK economy. British Racing alone contributes more than £4 billion a year in normal times, which clearly these are not.”

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