As the true cost of its pandemic closure becomes clear, the UK racing sector is planning to vote on a timetable to restart operations.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) board of directors will meet this Wednesday to examine the possibility of lifting the suspension of racing events that was implemented on March 18 and was expected to run through April 30.
The BHA formed a COVID19 Racing Industry Committee, which in turn set up a Resumption of Racing Group to find out how to restart racing behind closed doors in a manner appropriate to horsemen, racecourses and other stakeholders.
The proposal would then be presented to the government, which suggested last Friday that there were no plans to remove the existing ban on more than two people’s public gatherings. (Ireland’s government has recently prolonged its lockdown until May 5.) The Guardian announced that the BHA is concentrating its attention on a variety of paths that could lead daily meetings on a stretch for several days, including Newcastle, Lingfield and Newmarket. To follow quarantine restrictions and minimise unnecessary travel, jockeys and other key staff will be housed in on-site hotels.
In a letter from the BHA to trainers obtained by the Racing Post, the expense of the shutdown possibly going past April 30, was discussed. The letter predicts that the racing industry will lose £193 m in sales should the suspension last until the end of June, with a net cash effect of £55 m on the industry.
In addition to the “significant economic and social hardship” imposed on individuals dependent on racing income, the letter also cautioned that a prolonged suspension – though racing continues in Australia, Hong Kong and Japan, with Germany expected to relaunch a limited programme on May 1 – would “threaten British racing’s pre-eminent position” on the international stage.
The BHA is calling for help from all stakeholders in pressuring the government for a relief package involving matching funds received by the sector, cuts in market rates, classifying stable employees as critical jobs and providing financial assistance to jockeys, most of whom are freelancers.