March 16, 2020 / 3:28 PM / 21 days ago

Horse racing: British race meetings to go ahead, but no spectators

Horse Racing - Kelso Races - Kelso Racecourse, Kelso, Britain - March 16, 2020 General view as the races go ahead behind closed doors despite the number of coronavirus cases growing around the world Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

LONDON (Reuters) - British horse racing meetings will continue but without spectators until at least the end of March, the British Horseracing Authority said on Monday.

Last week’s Cheltenham Festival went ahead as planned with around 60,000 fans on the course each day, despite most other sports shutting down because of the coronavirus crisis.

“Racecourses and racing yards are embedded in their local communities and we are acutely aware of our responsibilities to protect public health,” BHA chief executive Nick Rust said in a statement.

“The restrictions we are putting in place to close racing to spectators and limit attendees will reduce demand on public services. We also have a range of measures in place designed in response to the government’s guidance on public health and we will continue to update these as appropriate.”

Contrary to many European countries battling the crisis, Britain is yet to ban mass gatherings, but the Premier League and Football League have opted to suspend soccer matches.

Continuing with horse racing will be some comfort for the British betting industry which has been denied much of the live sport on which its business is based.

The BHA said, however, that the situation is fluid and “decisions may have to be made to cancel meetings”.

“Every effort will be made to notify customers and the betting industry at the earliest opportunity,” it said.

Britain recorded another 171 cases of coronavirus on Monday, taking the total to 1,543.

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond

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