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Racing in Britain is set to go behind closed doors this week, initially until the end of the month, as a result of the escalating coronavirus outbreak.

The famous Cheltenham Festival went ahead as planned last week with more than 250,000 spectators over the four days.

Fixtures in Ireland were closed to the public from Friday evening and it is a similar situation in Scotland, following guidance from the Irish and Scottish governments regarding the banning of mass gatherings with over 500 people.

A statement from the British Horseracing Authority said racing was likely to move behind closed doors this week.

“Racing industry leaders are preparing to hold race meetings without spectators and to ensure that the competitors and participants attending only do so under strict conditions,” the BHA said.

“The sport’s tripartite leadership, including racecourses, participants and the governing body, the British Horseracing Authority, will tomorrow discuss an approach recommended by the industry’s COVID 19 group.

“It is likely to mean that racing moves behind closed doors later in the week, initially until the end of March. Racing’s fixture list will also be considered.

“With race meetings due to happen every day, the intention is to agree a program that is sustainable in the light of possible staff absences, including in critical roles, which protects industry staff and supports the wider effort to free up critical public services.”

Aintree’s three-day Grand National meeting is due to take place on April 2-4.

Officials Kelso are prepared and ready for the first Scottish race meeting behind closed doors on Monday (Tuesday AEDT).

Management at the venue are confident they will be within the maximum of 500 people on site and are following guidelines and advice from government and racing authorities.

“We’ve counted up the numbers to include jockeys, trainers, stable staff and all the operational staff to actually stage racing,” a spokeswoman said.

“That is coming to about 222, so we know we have a system for owners to come racing and we should be well within the guidelines for 500.”

Bookmakers have stressed the importance of keeping racing going even if it is behind closed doors.

“You’ve got a horse population in training being paid for that obviously needs to run, but then racing derives significant revenues from betting – the levy, betting shop media rights and streaming, bet and watch online. They are three big revenues to racing, all of which comes from racing taking place,” Simon Clare, PR director for Ladbrokes Coral, said: .

“Racing has a big incentive to keep the sport going through what is an unprecedented and quite extraordinary situation.

“It feels like it could be feasible to keep some of the show on the road, because even if every fixture can’t take place a proportion will generate a significant part of the betting.”

 
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