On Sunday 10 May, the UK Government will outline the next phase of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, which may include changes to its current social distancing restrictions and, potentially, a timeline for the resumption of sport.
Racing industry leaders will then meet on Monday 11 May to discuss the Government’s announcement and its implications for our own resumption planning.
We understand that everyone across the industry wants to know the date on which racing can resume.
We are continuing to have positive conversations with government, including public health officials. However, the reality is that the industry will need to understand more about the UK Government’s approach for the return of sport, and the operational implications of any continuing restrictions – and equally the plans from the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales – before we can provide a clear date for resumption.
Earlier this week, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, spoke positively about the resumption of sport, confirming when asked a specific question about sport returning next month that he was open to horse racing returning, and highlighting the plans being developed by racing, to ensure this is done in a safe way.
This optimism was echoed by the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, who noted that the return of sport would “lift the spirits of the nation”. He referenced the “constructive meetings with sports bodies” and the plans being developed by the Culture Secretary for a safe and sustainable resumption of sport, in line with medical and scientific advice.
We remain strongly focused on ensuring that we are prepared to resume at the earliest possible opportunity and that our plans are sufficiently flexible to allow for a range of different scenarios, which can be adapted and implemented in line with the gradual easing of Government restrictions. This includes understanding the public health requirements that will be in place around testing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or returning to work – and how these may apply to racing.
In line with this, and as our plans for resumption are finalised, any necessary processes and protocols will need to be agreed across the industry and communicated to participants. To resume at the first possible opportunity, we will be asking for your help and support in ensuring that this “lead-in” preparation is completed as quickly as possible.
This flexible and positive planning approach has been communicated to government by the BHA, which continues to liaise with the UK Government and the Devolved administrations on behalf of the industry’s Public Affairs Group.
The Scottish Sports Minister met leaders from several sports – including horseracing represented by Jonathan Garratt of Kelso racecourse – on Tuesday at a “positive and constructive” meeting around the return of sport in Scotland.
As noted in last week’s update, the BHA’s Chief Medical Adviser, Dr Jerry Hill, is part of a working group of medical advisers from major sports that met last week with the UK Culture Secretary and Public Health England officials to discuss the principles around the safe resumption of sport. These meetings continued this week and the dialogue has given us another opportunity to put forward options and demonstrate our plans for a safe, measured and controlled resumption of sport.
Through these discussions, we have demonstrated to government the work being done to ensure a safe and responsible return to racing. This includes minimising risk to participants through detailed planning around strict social distancing and infection control measures, alongside engaging with local communities (predominantly around racecourses) to provide information and reassurance about our plans.
Race programme and resumption planning
Whilst continuing to plan for all eventualities, we have today published a provisional outline race programme that will cover the first seven days of racing – whatever the resumption date.
The provisional race programme can be viewed in full here.
Please note that this programme covers the first 7 days of resumption only and equates to 13 fixtures (one fixture on the first day and two fixtures on each of the six subsequent days).
As explained below, work continues on confirming which racecourses will host fixtures in the initial stages of the resumption of racing. The outline programme therefore categorises races by geographical region – North, Midlands, and South – and by type, class and distance. It provides participants, and particularly owners and trainers, with an indication of the intended programme of races that will take place in the first week of resumption. We are also developing a provisional programme for subsequent weeks, which we will publish in due course.
Furthermore, last week, the Flat Pattern Committee’s sub-group published a provisional plan for Flat Pattern and Listed races, which is based on best-case scenario planning for restaging a certain number of races lost from early spring. We will continue to work to that provisional plan, pending any government announcements, and adjust plans accordingly to allow sufficient preparation for our flagship races, depending on when and under what circumstances racing can safely recommence.
The industry’s Members’ Committee met on Wednesday to consider a financial plan to support the resumption of racing. As outlined in previous updates, due to reduced racecourse revenue, prize money will be heavily dependent on Levy Board contributions until betting shops re-open and crowds return to racecourses. The proposals have today been sent to the Levy Board, which expects to meet early next week with a view to agreeing resumption funding, and together we will aim to provide greater clarity around revised minimum prize money values in an update next week.
At this stage, the race programme – and particularly the date on which it can commence – is still subject to guidance from the relevant public health authorities and the conditions in place during a phased return to racing.
Once this information is known, we will be able to confirm which racecourses will be included in the first seven days following resumption. As explained last week, an application process has been completed for racecourses to express interest in participating in the initial phases of resumption. The response from racecourses was overwhelmingly positive, with all courses expressing interest in being included.
The BHA’s Head of Racing, Chief Medical Adviser and Senior Inspector of Courses are now working with these courses individually on their own operational plans for resumption. This includes detailed work on how a raceday will function: from strict medical, biosecurity and social distancing protocols, to minimising the risk of injury and incident and avoiding unnecessary pressure on local NHS provision.
This work, together with a wider understanding of the public health requirements that will be in place, will help inform decisions around which racecourses may be able to stage fixtures on resumption.
We have also been working with major sports broadcasters and the Horserace Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) to establish arrangements for provision of coverage of racing behind closed doors, whilst also minimising the numbers of personnel on-course and ensuring adherence to social distancing protocols.
The Resumption of Racing Group is comprised of representatives from the BHA, the Horsemen’s Group, the Racecourse Association and the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB).
The Group is working to ensure that racing is prepared and in a position to restart at the earliest possible opportunity.
We hope that this information is useful and provides reassurance that racing will be ready to resume as soon as conditions allow.
The Resumption of Racing group will continue to send regular updates to keep you informed about progress.
We would also ask that you feed in any questions or matters for consideration to the NTF so that these can be relayed to the Resumption Group to be addressed in future updates. Please note, the NTF is collating feedback from both members and non-members for the purposes of resumption planning.
As ever, we would like to thank you for your patience, understanding and support as we continue to shape this work. Our priority is to get back racing at the earliest opportunity.