Ascot expects limited crowds through 2021

Ascot racecourse is expecting attendances will remain below pre-Covid levels throughout 2021.

The course’s financial results for 2019 featured a rise in turnover and pre-tax profits, but a much bleaker picture is predicted for the next 12 months in the absence of renewed Government support.

It is estimated that without insurance, the furlough scheme and business rates relief the course’s trading loss this year would have been more than £20 million.

Royal Ascot crowds may remain limited again next year
Royal Ascot crowds may remain limited next year (Adam Davy/PA)

In a normal year more than 70 per cent of Ascot’s revenue comes from having racegoers on site – which has not been possible since March when the pandemic struck, forcing the Royal meeting behind closed doors.

Ascot’s chief executive Guy Henderson said: “Of course, our landscape changed dramatically with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, and this will affect our 2020 results and beyond.

“In 2020 the impact of the pandemic has been significant but mitigated by cushions such as the Government Furlough Scheme, Business Rates Relief and pandemic insurance for racing without crowds. That picture adversely changes in 2021, and the business has had to take the appropriate steps to reduce its fixed and variable costs.

“Without our pandemic insurance and the Government support of furlough and business rates relief, our 2020 trading loss would be over £20m. The year will only be overall cash positive due to that support and a very significant reduction in our capital investment programme. 2021 will be much more challenging without such support.

“Our modelling currently projects a significant figure pre-tax loss in 2021. While the business is robust and remains in sound financial health, the journey back to normality will be gradual and determined by the phasing of public allowed to the races.

“We do not expect to see a full return of the public to 2019 levels until 2022. Overall, in terms of our long-term financial flight path, we forecast that the Covid-19 pandemic will have set the business plan back at least three years.”

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