Royal Ascot to take place behind closed doors if given green light
Royal Ascot, one of the highlights of a British summer increasingly devoid of sport, will this year not be open to the public and remains far from certain to take place at all.
Following the recent high-profile cancellations of Wimbledon and The Open golf championship, Ascot chief executive Guy Henderson on Tuesday issued a statement outlining plans for the track to stage its famous meeting behind closed doors between June 16 and 20.
Henderson also confirmed Ascot's two-day fixture starting May 8 would have no public admittance, even if the BHA and senior stakeholders sanction a phased resumption of racing next month.
"It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on government and public health policy, and the approval of the BHA for us to restart racing. Planning for this is our complete focus and we'll update on our progress," said Henderson.
"The pandemic will have a significant financial impact on our business in 2020, along with so many others. Nevertheless, Ascot will come through this crisis and we look forward to welcoming racegoers back when it is safe to do so.
"Meanwhile, our thoughts are with all those grieving and suffering as a result of Covid-19. We offer heartfelt thanks to our wonderful NHS staff, key workers and volunteers for all their selfless dedication."
There are no plans in place to reschedule key races should Royal Ascot have to be cancelled. If it does go ahead, these races are expected to be run for significantly less prize-money.
"The landscape that every racecourse is operating in, with no income from attendances, is going to significantly impact prize-money but the primary focus is to stage races that are fundamental, especially for three-year-olds," said director of racing Nick Smith.
"The Pattern process is complex and with a bit of imagination certain races could be rehoused if needs be but it's very difficult to plan for next week with any certainty, let alone June.
"Our plan is to run the races as they stand, providing a programme with credibility for the breeding industry. We will put opportunities on the table as soon as it is appropriate and safe to do so."
The track will be able to claim some of the inevitable losses through its insurance, and Smith added: "It's a materially challenging picture for us. Like all insurances, not all things are covered.
"It's of benefit, of course, but people should be under no illusions – the picture is not a bright one. However, it is by no means critical either and we'll move forward and come through this period."
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic there have been no fixtures in Britain since the cards at Taunton and Wetherby on March 17, with the sport seeking not to place any extra pressure on the National Health Service and emergency services.
It is understood a decision on when racing can be restarted will be delayed until the UK government issues its latest verdict on whether to extend its three-week lockdown. When racing does return, it is likely to be entirely behind closed doors for an indefinite period.
Customers who have already paid for entry and hospitality at Royal Ascot, or the track's meeting in May, will be refunded in full and will initially be contacted by email, the track said.
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