Tory MP calls for renewed crowd pilots at racecourses with social distancing in place

Thu 8 Oct 2020

A Tory MP has called for horse racing pilots to resume with social distancing in place.

The sport has so far held two crowd pilot race days, at Doncaster and Warwick last month. Doncaster was all set to allow a restricted crowd to the entirety of its St Leger, but the local Public Health Authority put a stop to the event before the first afternoon had concluded.

Previously, Goodwood’s hopes of hosting 5,000 people at the final day of its big meeting in July were also dashed in similar circumstances, and a planned pilot at Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire Festival was cancelled amid a resurgence in the national infection rate of Covid-19.

With stricter measures in place, no further pilot events are on the horizon, but speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson called for a change of approach.

“I have to stress that it (horse racing) is not a wealthy sport in the best of times and at the moment it is suffering very, very acutely,” said Robertson.

“Almost 50 per cent of the revenue of racecourses comes from paying customers, spectators who go every day, it is a seven-day-a-week sport and, of course, at the moment they have lost that entire revenue.

“There have been a couple of trials, of pilots, which seemed to go very well, so it really is rather disappointing that the Government stopped any further pilots or trials, especially when, of course, racecourses are vast areas and social distancing would be very, very easy there.

“There’s also question marks about why hospitality suites could not be opened when we can all go to a restaurant where there might be 50 people, 100 people, again suitably socially distanced – why can that not be replicated at a sporting arena?”

He added: “Sport is a very, very valuable asset to many people’s lives both physically and mentally, and we really do have to be careful that in containing the coronavirus disease, which we all want to do, we do not inadvertently cause other health problems in doing so.”

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