The BHA have released their latest update regarding owners returning to the races.
Thank you to owners for continuing to provide constructive feedback about the early stages of the return of owners to the racecourse. This is helpful for informing discussions and shaping decision-making about where restrictions can be eased, and the owner experience improved.
This update outlines some of the changes that we are making in the short-term, together with the ongoing work to continually refine and enhance the owner experience, so that it continues to be within the government guidance and without compromising the safety of all raceday attendees.
Easing entry restrictions
So far, entry has been limited to two owners per horse, with further restrictions on the time each owner is able to spend on the racecourse.
These initial measures have helped racecourses embed the new owner protocols and manage the practical challenges of facilitating social distancing and other hygiene measures for an increased number of attendees – thereby helping to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
Following engagement with owners and racecourses, we can confirm that from 28 July (i.e. meetings at which entries close from tomorrow) racecourses will be able to:
• Ease the two-person per horse limit – increase the badge allocation for owners permitted to attend each meeting (currently two per horse). Exact numbers will be determined by each racecourse according to their capacity, limits set by the UK government and in line with government and local guidance on gatherings. Information about allocations and registering to attend a fixture will continue to be communicated to owners via email in advance of raceday.
• Removal of restrictions around arrival and departure times – afford owners greater flexibility around the time they are permitted to spend on course. Owners are advised to arrive at the racecourse at least 45 minutes before their first declared runner to help minimise delays and support the health screening process.
The changes outlined above are only possible thanks to the continued support and cooperation of owners attending race meetings in adhering to British Racing’s protocols for behind closed doors racing and, specifically, the guidance for owners.
As ever, these protocols are subject to ongoing review and will be refined where possible to continually improve provision for owners. In the meantime, we ask that you continue to help us by following the current processes to ensure racing can continue in a safe and appropriate way.
The easing of attendance and time restrictions on course will not apply to Welsh racecourses at this stage, as Welsh Government regulations allow for a maximum of 30 people in the ‘owners’ zone’ at any one time.
Hospitality and catering
Following discussions with the UK Government, from 28 July, racecourses will be permitted to offer hospitality for owners in line with the guidance for restaurants, pubs and bars.
Presently, racecourses are limited to offering only essential food and drink and this change will offer greater flexibility to improve the experience for owners under the current circumstances including by allowing the provision of hot food and increased dining options where possible.
To accompany this change, strict measures will remain in place to manage infection control. This will include existing social distancing and hygiene controls and will require the careful management of capacities in owners’ facilities. Raceday workers (trainers, jockeys, stable staff, officials etc) and owners will also continue to remain separate from each other and will not be able to use the same facilities.
Information about the provision of hospitality for owners at racecourses, and any action that may be required by owners, will be communicated directly in advance of raceday.
Owners should note that racecourse hospitality will be subject to local conditions and risk assessments and that Government guidance may differ between England, Wales and Scotland which could affect this provision. All other aspects of the raceday must continue to comply with guidance on the return of elite sporting competition behind closed doors.
Longer-term actions – and current limitations
The actions outlined above are all aimed at improving the owner experience in the short-term, with a view to gradually easing restrictions and moving towards a more traditional raceday experience when government restrictions allow.
At this stage, racing – as an elite sport – must follow strict government guidance in relation to sports events behind closed doors, including tight restrictions on access to the racecourse, health screening prior to entry and social distancing on raceday.
The need to separate owners and raceday workers
Owners have also asked why they need to be separated from raceday workers. This is designed to ensure owners can return to the racecourse quickly in a practical and risk-managed way and to protect all parties.
Racing was able to resume on 1 June with a strict health screening process in place, but without the need for laboratory testing for COVID-19. This approach reflects the fact that racing is a predominantly rural, outdoors and non-contact sport, where the risks of spreading the virus are lower.
At the same time, risk was reduced by limiting racecourse access to the minimum number of personnel required to service the fixture and maintain social distancing.
With the reintroduction of owners, the number of people on course inevitably rises, as does the likelihood of people attending the racecourse with demographically more diverse backgrounds and from wider geographical areas. Some of the latter include areas where COVID-19 cases have been higher.
The use of dedicated zones enables racecourses to safely manage the increased numbers while continuing to apply social distancing measures. It also means that there is currently no need to revise other elements of the screening programme, such as the introduction of laboratory testing for all racecourse attendees.