Face masks to become mandatory at British racing fixtures

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that face masks will become mandatory at all fixtures in Great Britain from 26 October.

The measure, the BHA explained, has been introduced to protect racing attendees amid rising novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in Britain.

All racing events were postponed in March, in line with Covid-19 restrictions put in place the British government, but were permitted to resume behind closed doors from 1 June, with only jockeys, BHA officials and broadcast staff able to attend.

Previously, only certain attendees had been required to wear a face covering, but this will now be extended to all individuals at any meeting for the foreseeable future.

Attendees will only be required to wear a non-medical mask, but workers such as medical and cleaning staff will still need to wear certified or higher grade personal protection equipment, in line with the existing rules.

Face coverings must be worn in all indoor and outdoor areas of both the Green Zone and Owner Zone, from the point of arrival at the course day until exiting the venue.

Some exceptions will apply, including when eating or drinking, travelling alone in a vehicle, showering or changing, and when attendees are asked to identify themselves.

“Our behind closed doors model and the vigilance of our participants and officials has enabled racing to return safely, with no evidence of transmission of Covid-19 on the racecourse,” BHA chief medical officer Dr Jerry Hill said.

“With cases rising across the country and more areas subject to local lockdowns and restrictions, we believe that making face coverings compulsory for all attendees – except, of course, where exemptions apply – is a sensible and necessary precaution to bolster our existing protocols and help keep everyone safe.”

Meanwhile, the BHA has announced its fixture list for the first four months of 2021. The organisation said this has been developed with a view to maximising revenue to help racing through the Covid-19 crisis, while also safeguarding participant wellbeing.

The fixture list covers the period from 1 January to 30 April, with a total of 448 fixtures – 246 jump meeting and 202 flat fixtures – set to take place during the period. This is only three less fixtures than in the same period last year.

“Although the current unprecedented levels of uncertainty make planning for the future challenging, the publication of a fixture list and minimum prize money levels for the first four months of next year provides the sport with clarity over racing’s plans for the immediate future,” BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman explained.

Wayman added the BHA will continue its talks with the government over the possibility of fans returning to fixtures when the Covid-19 situation eases.

“We continue to discuss with government a consistent approach to allowing sporting events to go ahead with spectators as soon as possible but in developing the fixture list for the beginning of next year, we have focussed on creating a schedule that maximises off-course betting turnover and, where possible, reduces the costs of staging fixtures.”

In addition, Wayman paid tribute to the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), which this week announced that it had agreed to contribute £31.9m in funding towards the first four months of racing in Great Britain in 2021.

“We are particularly grateful to the HBLB for their continued financial support which has enabled us to confirm that pre-Covid minimum values will remain in place for mid and lower-tier races, whilst also retaining the appearance money scheme that is popular with many owners,” he said.

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