How Will Racecourses Ensure Safe Return Of Spectators?

race crowds at cheltenham racecourse

Horse racing fans rejoiced last week as it was announced that the Qatar Goodwood Festival would be a pilot event to stress test the phased safe return of spectators to elite sporting venues.

The news is a significant step forward for British horseracing as it signifies the beginning of economic recovery following COVID-19. The announcement is an equally important moment for spectators as the prospect of returning to racecourses to witness horse racing action once again becomes a reality.

Many will be anticipating what health and safety protocols racecourses will put in place following the COVID-19 pandemic. Boris Johnson has confirmed that the safe return of spectators must be done in a ‘COVID-secure’ way but what exactly would this entail?

Here we provide details of the health and safety protocols racecourses have already put in place following COVID-19, how these will advance and the details released so far for Glorious Goodwood.

When will racecourses reopen?

The government has confirmed that the final day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival on 1st August will be one of several pilot events to begin the phased safe return of spectators to elite sporting venues. Should these pilot events prove successful, the UK could see the return of crowds as early as October.

A total of 5,000 people will be permitted to attend Goodwood Racecourse, providing that health and safety government guidelines, including social distancing, are followed. Attendance is currently only open to Goodwood Racecourse Members and their guests.

What safety protocols have racecourses implemented so far?

Horse racing was one of the first sports to resume behind closed doors during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, significant health and safety changes have been implemented across the industry.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) website includes an in-depth analysis of all health and safety changes implemented following the resumption of racing since COVID-19. Some of these health and safety protocols include:

  • Mandatory medical screenings to ensure that everyone who is on a racecourse is safe to be on the racecourse.
  • Handwashing stations around the racecourse and all the main transfer points.
  • A reporting system to permit racing industry members to report proven COVID-19 cases to allow mapping of infection by postcode and role.
  • Face coverings to be worn by racecourse personnel.
  • Social Distancing Officers in place to ensure health and safety measures are adhered to on race days.

For a full breakdown of racecourse COVID-19 health and safety protocols and guidelines, please refer to the BHA website.

How will racecourse health and safety protocols evolve for the safe return of spectators?

David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association, assured that “the safety protocols involved will be stringent and the Goodwood Racecourse team are in a fantastic place to implement them.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have drafted health and safety guidance entitled Elite Sport – Return to Competition: Safe Return of Spectators. The draft outlines three health and safety assessments which should be considered and followed by both spectators and competition venues to measure if a safe ‘COVID-19-secure’ return is possible.

Spectators should declare to the appropriate venue that they will:

  • Not attend an event if they display any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Agree to observe social distancing guidelines.
  • Provide personal details to assist with NHS test and trace requirements.

Competition delivery partners must communicate with the local authority before each competition to understand:

  • The prevailing risk environment.
  • Assess if the competition can be hosted in line with health and safety guidelines.

The competition venue operator must assess:

  • Ability to reduce entry capacity.
  • Ability to maintain social distancing between individuals.
  • Ability to facilitate social distancing inside all areas and zones.
  • The revised exit capacity.

Competition venue operators also need to consider:

  • The number of passengers on public transport, travelling to and from the venue.
  • The size, location and design of the venue.
  • The likelihood of public gatherings outside the venue.

There will be enhanced hygiene and revised operational measures at venues. Some of these actions include:

  • Additional hand sanitiser stations
  • Toilets cleaned more frequently
  • One-way systems
  • Additional waste facilities
  • Screens and barriers to separate people where necessary
  • Contactless cash operations
  • Removal of all buffet catering services
  • Signage confirming the maximum capacity in any spectator areas
  • Additional entry and exit points to reduce congestion and queuing

Once the pilot events have taken place, the government will assess if these enhanced health and safety measures are enough to provide a thoroughly safe COVID-secure return for spectators.

Attending racecourses and sporting events as a whole will undoubtedly provide a very different experience following the coronavirus pandemic. The gradual safe return of spectators, however, is undeniably a huge step in the right direction for the sporting and hospitality industry.

Eventmasters look forward to welcoming clients back to some of the UK’s biggest horse racing meetings in 2021. We are now taking bookings for The Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood. We can’t wait to hear the sound of roaring crowds and relish the electric racecourse atmospheres once again.

Thinking of attending an event in 2021? Let us know!