There was welcome news for racing on Monday when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that outdoor and indoor venues in Tier 1 and 2 areas would be allowed to admit spectators on a limited basis.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Johnson said: “Spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.”
Johnson did not confirm what the capacity limits might be, but according to a later tweet from Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, venues in Tier 1 will be permitted to host up to 4,000 spectators or 50% of capacity limits. For venues in Tier 2, that figure drops to 2,000 or 50% for indoor venues.
He tweeted: “Sports fans back in stadia from 2nd Dec 4K or 50% of capacity in Tier 1, 2K or 50% of capacity in Tier 2. A big step forward for fans as we work towards fuller capacities. Thanks to pilot hosts & fans for showing this can be done safely.”
The news comes just days after confirmation from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that racing is in line to receive a share of a £300 million ‘Winter Survival Package’ of loans and grants to sports that are facing Covid-induced financial losses.
British racing has been conducted behind closed doors since its return to action on June 1 bar two small pilot meetings at Doncaster and Warwick, both of which were staged in September.
A joint-statement issued on behalf of the BHA, Racecourse Association and The Horsemen’s Group welcomed the news, saying: “The change to restrictions announced by the Prime Minister will now be considered by racecourses and the BHA’s medical team.
“Further engagement will also be required with local public health officials. We thank ministers and officials at DCMS for their support which was crucial to today’s announcement, and all those involved across government and in Parliament.
“The details of the government’s new approach to tiering are not due to be announced until later in the week. Until this has been published and individual racecourses are made aware of the restrictions in their area, it will not be possible to confirm which venues will be admitting spectators.
“We continue to encourage the UK government to allow betting shops to reopen in all areas as part of the change to restrictions.”