Spectators in Wales will be able to join those in England and Scotland in attending race meetings from next week after the Welsh government announced the public can return to sporting events on Monday.
Racegoers returned to tracks in England and Scotland on May 17, albeit in reduced numbers, and Chepstow’s meeting on June 11 will mark the first occasion Welsh fans can get back on course.
In both England and Wales, a maximum of 4,000 racegoers are permitted – excluding the pilot event at Royal Ascot which allows 12,000 people – while the limits in Scotland vary from track to track, with Ayr having a cap of 250 and up to 1,400 at Hamilton.
The next stage of the road map out of Covid-19 restrictions is pencilled in for June 21, although it is not expected to confirm until June 14 if it will go ahead, and what guidelines will apply to sporting events in England.
David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association, said: “The government said when it published the road map that it wanted Covid restrictions to be lifted from June 21 at the earliest, but it has also said repeatedly that it wants to proceed with caution.
“Racing is pushing hard for the maximum attendance at race meetings from that point and to remove the current rule that has a lower limit for outdoors sports compared to those that take place in stadia with ticketed seating. Our venues have very significant outdoors space, where transmission rates are lower, allowing spectators to be distributed over large areas.
“We may not find out what the guidelines are until a week before this change comes into effect but will be ready to reconfigure racecourses depending on decisions made by national and local authorities, who license each event.”
Julie Harrington, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, added: “I’m very positive about the ability of racing to take place safely as we’ve demonstrated throughout the long period of racing behind closed doors. I have been able to make that point directly to ministers and am delighted that Royal Ascot has been selected as a pilot event.
“We are now awaiting the government’s review of social distancing rules, which need to be relaxed if we are to welcome back more spectators from June 21.
“There is a lot of speculation in the media, but the government has told us no decision has yet been made. We are working closely alongside other elite sports to seek clarity from government at the earliest possible moment. There are a number of major sporting events shortly after June 21, such as the Euros, Wimbledon, the Open Golf and the British Grand Prix.
“We thank all those owners and spectators attending racing at present for their patience in bearing with restrictions and look forward to the day when these can be safely removed.”