Boris Johnson confirms crowds will not return in October

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that initial plans for spectators to return to sporting events from October 1 will not now go ahead.

The decision comes as a big blow to racing, and it was no surprise at all when Newmarket subsequently announced on its website that plans to welcome crowds of up to 1,000 at each of the three days of its Cambridgeshire meeting – beginning on Thursday – have been abandoned on Government advice.

Prime Minister Johnson also stated that the new restrictions coming into place may last for “perhaps six months”.

The latest course of action has been brought about by a rising coronavirus infection rate.

Newmarket had been hoping to hold a pilot event this week
Newmarket had been hoping to hold a crowd pilot event this week (David Davies/PA)

Speaking on Tuesday lunchtime in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Johnson said: “We have to acknowledge that the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events, so we will not be able to do this from October 1 and I recognise the implications for our sports clubs which are the life and soul of our communities.”

He added: “We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments, new forms of mass-testing but unless we palpably make progress we should assume that the restrictions that I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months.

“For the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the
House and the country that our fight against it will continue.”

The announcement comes barely 24 hours after Warwick staged a successful pilot event, with around 450 spectators on track.

Following the Prime Minister’s Commons update, the British Horseracing Authority spelled out its frustration at the delay of crowds.

In advance of a planned fuller statement from racing’s industry leaders, the BHA tweeted: “The delay to the public’s return to sport events is deeply frustrating news after so much effort has been put into carrying out pilots within the rules agreed with govt and local health authorities.”

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