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British horse racing could welcome spectators back to COVID-19 research programme

Publication date: May 10, 2021, 12: 27 hrs.

Last updated: May 10, 2021, 03: 30 hrs.

Philip Conneller

UK horse racing may soon be making a comeback as the country experiments with bringing crowds back to sporting events.

UK horse racing
As crazy as it seems now, 125 , 000 people gathered for the Cheltenham festival that took place in March 2020, just ten days before the UK was completely blockaded. (Image: BBC)

Last week a number of 1, 000 people attended the final of the World Snooker Championships, an indoor event. This was part of the government's Event Research Programme (ERP) to investigate the risk of COVID - 19 transmission from attendance at sporting events and concerts.

England and Scotland are the two host countries for the Euro 2020 international football championships, which begin in June after being postponed for a year due to a pandemic.

Organiser UEFA insists there must be live fans in the stadiums. Ireland were removed as hosts because they could not guarantee they would allow fans back into the stadiums.

First crowds next month

Some 15 "pilot events" have been selected for the ERP program, including last week's snooker final, which will allow researchers to "explore how a combination of testing and non-pharmaceutical interventions can influence decisions to safely lift restrictions at events."

On Monday, David Armstrong, CEO of the Racecourse Association, said The Racing Post , that his organization was in discussions with ERP about joining the program.

Royal Ascot, which will be available from June 15 to 19, could serve as the first test venue for racing. The event is traditionally attended by the Queen, but it is currently unclear whether Her Majesty will be part of the experiment.

The government has said that most of the participants who will take part in ERP events will be held locally. Ascot racecourse is six miles from Windsor Castle, the royal residence, so it should at least qualify.

In the meantime, all participants in the pilot events will be subject to "scientifically and ethically designed pre- and post-event monitoring " that they agree to when they sign up for the event, according to the U.K. government website.

They must also complete a consent form as part of the registration process because of the potentially increased risk of COVID 19 transmission.

Cheltenham Flap

The last major racing event attended by spectators was, controversially, the Cheltenham Festival. Running from March 10 to 13, 2020, it attracted 125, racing drivers to the town of Cheltenham in the west of England. It was later blamed for accelerating the spread of COVID - 19 in the UK.

Just three days after Cheltenham, modelling from Imperial College London has shed new light on the seriousness of what will soon be called a pandemic.

Ten days later, in Match 23, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson initiated the country's first full blockade.

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