The coronavirus: Steering group is in place to consider implications of the virus

Tue 25 Feb 2020

The British Horseracing Authority is prepared to act – if the need arises – regarding any potential coronavirus impact on fixtures, including the Cheltenham Festival.

BHA chief executive Nick Rust has confirmed an industry steering group is in place to consider the implications of the virus.

Rust, speaking on a Betfair podcast, said: “We have an industry group in place that has been and continues to work on the potential impact of the coronavirus on the horse racing industry as a whole.

“The BHA executive met with the team at Cheltenham Racecourse on Monday morning to discuss final plans for the Festival, and the coronavirus was discussed at that meeting.”

The PA News agency understands the steering group – comprising the BHA, Racecourse Association and horsemen – sees no need as yet for new contingency plans other than to continue to liaise with the Government.

Rust added: “In terms of potential ramifications for the Festival, any decision that impacts on it taking place will not be a decision that racing makes, but rather the Government.

“In the event that the Cheltenham Festival was postponed, either in its entirety or in part for any reason, there are contingencies already in place to re-stage it later in the season.”

The Cheltenham Festival, which begins on March 10, and Aintree Grand National meeting are among the high-profile events in the racing calendar this spring.

While some international sporting events have been postponed, principally in Asia, the virus is becoming more prevalent in Europe – with Italy especially taking extra precautions and six Serie A football matches played behind closed doors.

At present, the 2020 Olympics – due to be held in Tokyo in July and August – remain scheduled to go ahead as planned.

A Jockey Club spokesman for Cheltenham issued a statement on Tuesday evening, which read: “It remains full speed ahead for The Festival™ presented by Magners in a fortnight’s time.

“Racing continues to liaise closely with the Government to stay on top of the situation, and we are looking forward to four fantastic days of racing at Cheltenham.”

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