Goodwood managing director warns racecourses could close if crowds don't return
Racecourses could close if crowds are not allowed to return in the near future, Goodwood's Adam Waterworth warned on Saturday, when his track was scheduled to stage a pilot for racegoers.
As many as 5,000 people, mostly made up of Goodwood members, were due to attend the fifth and final day of the course's Glorious meeting as a trial in relation to having crowds back at sporting events.
However, a recent rise in coronavirus cases in Britain meant Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed easing some restrictions, which included the Sussex course's test day, on Friday.
Waterworth, managing director of sport at the Goodwood Estate, said he was gutted by the announcement and its impact, which will cost one of the world's finest racing venues a six-figure sum.
On Saturday, he forecast more possible doom if people are not permitted to attend sporting events – something the government had pencilled in for October 1.
Asked on ITV's The Opening Show programme if some racecourse may have to close, Waterworth said: "You'd like to hope not but the answer to that question depends on how long it goes on for. Can racecourses last one season with no crowds? Hopefully most will be able to last one but if this goes on into next year then I imagine it will have a very serious impact on all courses.
"Small courses obviously face a very difficult period but you must remember for larger courses like ours the overheads are huge. There is still media money coming in but it barely covers the overheads so, even for us, another season like this one will be a real struggle."
Waterworth, who worked at Huntingdon, Haydock and Doncaster before moving to Goodwood in 2010, added: "The amount of profit we make depends on prize-money. For instance, on Celebration Mile day we might have 10,000 in but we don't make very much at all because we invest so much into prize-money.
"Glorious Goodwood is 80 per cent of our revenue and we invest a lot of what we make through the year into the infrastructure, to cover overheads and then into prize-money as well.
"The large independent racecourses have been saying for a while that none of us are going to make a profit this year, you can see that in the numbers. We will make a significant loss. I don't think any racecourses are better off without crowds but it is true that for some smaller courses the media money will stretch further. For larger venues it amounts to around 20 per cent of our revenue, which isn't enough to cover the overheads."
The government's postponement of easing the lockdown, which includes casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks remaining shut, is in place for two weeks.
"We've slept on it and I suppose that once the government figures started coming out yesterday and the announcement started it was inevitable I suppose that we weren't going to be able to let a crowd in but that doesn't make it any less disappointing," Waterworth added.
"The pilot was not about money and more about trying to get things moving so that hopefully, sooner rather than later, we could start letting crowds in properly from October 1. For a large course like us, crowds create 75 to 80 per cent of our revenue so no crowds for these large festival meetings obviously creates a huge impact on us financially."
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