RCA Continues Debate With UK Govt Of Bringing Back Spectators To Royal Ascot

The Racecourse Association (RCA) continues its discussions with the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) about bringing spectators back to the Royal Ascot meeting on June 15-19.

The Racing Post announced that David Armstrong, the RCA’s Chief Executive, indicated that the organisation is still in talks with the government ahead of the lifting of national lockdown restrictions on May 17th.

Up to 4,000 racing fans could return to the tracks once COVID-19 preventive measures are lifted, but Armstrong and the RCA are hoping for 10,000 to attend Royal Ascot, one of the year’s most important meetings.

Deliverance of successful pilots

The executive said: “We’re in discussions with government about what pilots we could successfully deliver as we move into the second phase of the ERP. We had proposed one in May but we weren’t quite able to make that work in time.

“The government is keen for us to take part but whether we do or not will not affect our readiness for crowds to return, so I’m reasonably relaxed about it.”

Wide outdoor sports stadiums will be able to operate at a capacity of 25 percent with a maximum crowd of 10,000 from 17 May, according to the government’s four-stage plan for easing the UK’s third national lockdown, with further restrictions loosening from 21 June.

Test events

Spectators have been able to return to some ‘test events,’ with audiences attending the Carabao League Cup final on 2 May, and 1,000 fans attending the World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

Moreover, up to 20,000 people will be able to attend the FA Cup final on May 15, while 25,000 England fans may be able to attend national matches for the forthcoming 2020 European Championships.

Many racing fans are frustrated, according to Armstrong, who states that the reopening of pubs and betting shops has caused many to wonder why they are unable to return to racetracks.

Protocols set by government

“I get the frustration but I think we have communicated across the sport that we have to follow the protocols and those protocols are set by the government,” Armstrong continued. 

“We have to protect the green zone for the athletes. These are valuable people that are needed to keep the sport going.

“I can see where the frustration comes from as they can go down the road and sit outside at a pub having a pint with friends, but what people have to realise is that what happens at the races is imposed on us by government and we have to follow them. If racing could make its own changes to how things are, it might look different, but this is what we have to do.”

Sporting bodies have already addressed the possibility of vaccine passports to ensure the secure return of fans to stadiums, with the FA, Premier League, English Football League (EFL), England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Rugby Football Union (RFU), and Rugby Football League (RFL) all reporting that they ‘see the benefits’ of the solution.