No shutdown for Irish Racing but restrictions continue

Recommendations from the National Health Emergency Team (NPHET) regarding the imposition of level 5 lockdown restrictions across Ireland have been rejected by the government, thus allaying fears that racing in the country might be on the verge of shutdown for the second time this year. Level 3 restrictions will be put into place across the country instead and that will at least allow horse racing to continue unabated, albeit behind closed doors and with no owners in attendance.

As things stand, Level 2 restrictions are in place, these allowing a maximum of 200 spectators at racecourses which are licensed to cater for 5000 people or more. Nevertheless the higher level of restrictions means that only essential workers will be permitted access to any race meetings.

Over the past two weeks, there have been a maximum two individuals allowed back into racecourses for each listed owner although this will now come to an end. Perhaps just as importantly for the industry and more particularly the leading Irish bookmakers, betting shops will be allowed to continue trading, something which wouldn’t be permitted under the terms of Level 4 or 5 restrictions.

One of the recommendations forwarded by NPHET is that there must be more rigorous policing of the new Level 3 rules and that there must be enhanced enforcement. Nevertheless, given that the government was expected to accept the advise of NPHET, the latest news has been greeted with a sense of relief.

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “From what I understand it is Level 3, which allows us to continue racing but it goes back behind closed doors. It’s better than Level 5 – put it that way – so there’s a sigh of relief.”

He continued: “The important thing is to be able to keep racing. We don’t know when the change will come in yet so we have to find out a bit more about it. Let’s see what emerges.

“It’s unfortunate from the owners’ perspective, but hopefully the national picture will improve and we can get back to where we were. We have a template now and we have been advancing what racecourses were able to offer for owners and so on, so it was a start.”