- Quote: ‘There are a lot of developments happening almost daily. Those will help us change the way we live in society – not just in sport. As the rules stand it is unlikely we could be ready for a normal Cheltenham’.
By Andrew Atkinson
Amid the ongoing controversy of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival taking place in March just days before racing lockdown, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 Festival is unlikely to go ahead with a full-capacity said Racecourse Association’s chief executive David Armstrong.
“Looking ahead to next year, I think as things stand it’s unlikely we could have a full-capacity Cheltenham Festival next March,” said Armstrong.
Racing returned – behind closed doors – after a three month imposed COVID-19 Government lockdown, that has lead to many employees in the sport being furloughed.
And, following the spike in coronavirus cases at present, Armstrong said: “There are a lot of developments happening almost daily.
“Those will help us change the way we live in society – not just in sport. However, as the rules stand it is unlikely we could be ready for a normal Cheltenham.
Overall attendance at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival was 251,684, compared to a record total attendance of 266,557 in 2019. On day four of the Festival this year 68,859 attended.
“I also think it’s pretty unlikely we have full capacity at any racecourse this year. Venues have done their calculations on what their capacity is, under the new rules, and these range from 25% of normal to up to 40%, which is at Newmarket.
“A vaccine cannot be relied upon to be the next stage of recovery from this pandemic.
“What we’re focusing on is the various technological developments, that might allow some relaxation of the social distancing rules.
“For example, a new 20-minute saliva-based test, which is connected to mobile phones to create digital passports, could be used at meetings to help relax social distancing. I think the next step is going to be technology-driven, not vaccine-driven.
“We hope from the start of next month that all racecourses will be able to accommodate paying spectators. It will still be on a reduced capacity basis, but racecourses across the country are now getting ready for that date.”