Tag Archive for: Phil Bell

Chepstow left counting the cost as Welsh National goes behind closed doors

Chepstow executive director Phil Bell was philosophical following the news the Coral Welsh National will take place without spectators for the second successive year on Monday.

The Welsh government has confirmed all sporting events in Wales will be held behind closed doors from Boxing Day due to the surge in coronavirus cases.

It was a decision Chepstow had feared would be made in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

“In the last 48 hours it was leaning towards closed doors so I was beginning to get my head around it,” Bell told Sky Sports Racing.

“At the weekend it looked like there was a possibility of reduced crowds, maybe 4,000, but the mood music yesterday was going in the wrong direction and that’s what has happened.”

More than 6,000 tickets had been sold in advance of this year’s meeting, but it will now once again take place without a crowd.

“We’ve had up to 12,000 people for the Welsh National meeting in recent years, an average of around 10,000. Hospitality had been sold out for about a month,” Bell went on.

“Most of the racecourse was ready to go. We’ve been having marquees erected for the last three weeks plus all the portable toilets, outside bars and food outlets.

“It’s been a month’s worth of hard work in terms of putting the site ready which is now going to go to waste.

“The one thing about the financial impact is we are talking to the Welsh Government about a compensation package. We’ve been asked to supply our cost and revenue losses to them and that’s going into the mix for a decision.

“It’s an expensive race meeting to put on. We’ve spent £40,000 on marquees alone – one small element of the event. That’s a help they are aware there are significant losses involved.”

Welsh economy Minister Vaughan Gething announced the new measures for indoor and outdoor sporting events in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

Gething said: “Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year. Unfortunately, the new Omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.

Secret Reprieve on his way to winning last year's Coral Welsh Grand National
Secret Reprieve on his way to winning last year’s Coral Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)

“We need to do everything we can to protect people’s health and control the spread of this awful virus.

“Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. The advice is clear – we need to act now in response to the threat of Omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.

“Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports.”

Traditionally staged on December 27, the Welsh Grand National is the highlight of the year at Chepstow.

With the course waterlogged 12 months ago, last season’s renewal was rescheduled to take place in early January, but there were no paying customers on course to witness the impressive victory of the Evan Williams-trained Secret Reprieve.

In Scotland, officials at Musselburgh have announced the New Year’s Day meeting at the East Lothian track will take place behind closed doors.

The decision was taken following the Scottish Government’s decision to limit outdoor sporting events to a maximum of 500 people with table service only.

Musselburgh racecourse
Musselburgh racecourse (Jane Barlow/PA)

Musselburgh general manager Bill Farnsworth said: “It is very unfortunate as this is one of our best and biggest racedays and one of our most popular, attended by a sell-out crowd.

“However, we all must play our part in keeping people safe and in light of the latest Government guidance on the Omicron variant, we feel the responsible decision is to make this a ‘BCD’ event with only annual members, horse owners, trainers and staff in attendance.

“On a positive note, we hope that the restrictions will break the spread of the Omicron variant so that we can look forward to the Scottish Festival Trials Weekend on February 5 and 6.”

He added: “All ticket holders for the cancelled racedays on January 1 and 3 will be able to transfer to future race days or will receive a full refund. Racecourse staff will endeavour to process all transfers and refunds as quickly as possible.”