Warwick gets go-ahead for reduced capacity crowd trial

Warwick’s pilot meeting on Monday has been given the green light to take place, but with a crowd reduced from a proposed 800 people to 474 spectators.

As a result, no tickets will go on sale to the general public, with the spaces filled by annual members, hospitality and owners.

When last week’s pilot scheme at Doncaster was halted by the local authority after just one day, Warwick reduced their capacity from 1,000 to 800, but following meetings with Public Health England, the figure has been further reduced.

Warwick is owned by the Jockey Club, like Newmarket, with that track still planning to stage the Cambridgeshire meeting (September 24-26) in front of 1,000 racegoers each day.

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A statement on Warwick’s website read: “Following discussions with local authorities and representatives, Warwick Racecourse will welcome up to 474 spectators at its Monday, September 21 racing fixture as part of a limited capacity trial, with stringent health and safety measures in place for its first meeting since March.

“The restricted capacity will be filled by 150 annual members, 124 hospitality bookers and up to 200 racehorse owners, in addition to participants and raceday staff.

“Tickets will not go on general sale given the limits involved.”

With a handful of football matches this weekend also hosting small crowds, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden issued an update on the pilot schemes.

He tweeted: “Return of fans to sport update. Just held a collaborative and constructive meeting with major sports on the October 1 review. There is mutual understanding of the need to get fans back in, while all acknowledging the very significant headwinds we face with the virus.

“The Government is conducting this review rapidly and will complete this work on the return of fans as soon as possible. This follows a meeting I held with the business events sector earlier this week as part of the review.”

The British Horseracing Authority along with a number of other sporting bodies, including the Premier League, EFL and England and Wales Cricket Board, met with Dowden on Wednesday and issued a joint statement after their discussions.

The statement said: “We conveyed to the Secretary of State the very serious financial situation now facing our sports, clubs and venues and that we believe we can stage events safely.

“It is clear that if fans cannot return soon that there will be very serious economic implications across our sporting sector.

“Our sports have already demonstrated through staging fixtures behind closed doors, in test events and through the return of recreational sport that we can deliver the very highest standards in safety and best practice.

“We will continue to engage with the Government in the days ahead and provide any further evidence required.”

Newmarket crowd pilot remains on course for next week

Plans for a limited-capacity pilot event over three days at Newmarket next week remain on track.

Pilots for racing have so far proved stop-start, with a planned 5,000-strong attendance on the final day of Glorious Goodwood being called off the day before, and hopes of trialling crowds at all four days of last week’s St Leger meeting at Doncaster lasting only as far as the first afternoon.

But the pilot pencilled in for the Cambridgeshire meeting at Newmarket on September 24-26 is still in place, following discussions with local public authorities and the course’s safety advisory group.

The 1,000-person Newmarket pilot is part of a series of trials across a range of different sports that have been approved by the Department of Culture, Media & Sport and will take place with stringent health and safety measures at the venue.

Racegoers briefly made it back to Doncaster last week
Racegoers briefly made it back to Doncaster last week (David Davies/PA)

Warwick is due to stage a smaller spectator trial on Monday and a Jockey Club Racecourses statement said constructive discussions continue with local stakeholders ahead of a further statement being made.

Amy Starkey, who runs Newmarket as east regional director for JCR, said: “We’re pleased to be working closely with local authorities to stage a limited spectator trial at the Rowley Mile over the course of the Cambridgeshire meeting.

“The racecourse is a vast, predominantly outdoor environment that could safely space out several thousand people, not just the maximum 1,000 who will be in attendance with stringent health and safety measures in place.

“The Newmarket trial will provide important insights we can share across our industry and with other sports, so that when it is possible to welcome some level of spectators back to events more regularly in the future we are well equipped to do so.”