British horse racing’s experiment with spectators is kaput
The British horse racing industry took another big hit this week when health officials reinstated restrictions on how many in-person attendees can be at tracks for live racing. As it stands today, spectators are allowed at the tracks, but only six at a time. That number is now so small that the tracks might as well be shut down to in-person customers entirely.
Word of the reinstated crowd limits comes on the same day that Doncaster track brought in 2,500 spectators for the first day of the four-day St. Leger Festival. The crowd, which was smaller than it would have been in normal years, was the largest group to witness UK horse racing in the pandemic era. Unfortunately, the remainder of the festival will play out in front of essential track employees.
The Arena Racing Company, which manages Doncaster, told the BBC that reduced crowd size would cost the company around £250,000 ($324,000 USD) in lost revenue. That’s a considerable chunk of change for any business in 2020 as most of them have at least three dormant months already on the books.
Mark Spincer, the managing director of Arena’s racing division commented on the situation saying, “It’s cost a lot trying to get this right. The team have done an amazing job and I feel so sorry for them – some have only been back off furlough for two weeks. This isn’t just a blow for racing, it’s sport. It’s going to make it slower and harder for everyone to get back, but we have to follow the advice.”
Hopefully the horse racing industry can withstand the blow.