Newbury promises extra vigilance on Lockinge day after recent brawls
Experienced bar 'spotters' and CCTV operators will be deployed at Newbury this weekend, where extra vigilance is promised to help ensure racegoers enjoy a trouble-free afternoon, in contrast to the disturbing experiences suffered by many at Goodwood and Ascot on the past two Saturdays.
The Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes takes centre stage at the Berkshire racecourse this Saturday, and the track's chief executive Julian Thick said on Sunday: "We don't tolerate anti-social behaviour and anyone found to be engaging in such behaviour will be asked to leave the racecourse.
"In light of recent incidents we'll be extra vigilant in all our security and staff briefings."
The 'recent incidents' Thick referred to came at Goodwood on May 5, where a 50-man brawl broke out, and at Ascot on Saturday, where fighting took place in the grandstand and towards the exit gates before spilling on to the pavement outside the track.
As the main meeting in the south this Saturday, it's Newbury's turn to be in the firing line, and the track has experienced its share of violent scenes in the past, notably in the summer of 2012, when Cardiff and Swansea football fans clashed.
Elaborating on the track's preparations, Thick continued: "We sit down in advance to look at the appropriate levels of security and stewarding required, based around the type of raceday we're holding, the projected attendance and any additional factors identified.
"The Al Shaqab Lockinge meeting is no different. We've a range of measures in place, which include a mixture of high-vis and blazer-wearing members of security staff across the racecourse.
"We also deploy experienced bar ‘spotters’ and CCTV operators, whose focus is to look out for early signs of anti-social behaviour and work alongside bar staff on duty to identify any groups or individuals who may be of higher risk and notify security.
"Newbury also deploys drugs detection dogs, amnesty bins and bag searches at all of our significant race meetings."
He added: "Newbury is also committed to supporting the PACE Yourself campaign, run in conjunction with the Racecourse Association across the industry. We have free water available to racegoers at all our bars and an alcohol-free zone. We'll also be proactively handing out free water throughout the day on Saturday."
York chief executive William Derby also believes his team will be as prepared as they can be at this week's Dante meeting and points out the track has a good record in this regard in recent years.
Derby said: "Nobody wants to see poor behaviour on a racecourse and it's an issue we take very seriously.
"We've a big stewarding team who will hopefully ensure everyone can enjoy a very happy, pleasant day. If people do misbehave then we've the appropriate resources and sanctions to deal with it.
"We've a very strong record in recent years but aren't complacent as it takes only one incident to spoil the day for the majority."
The BHA has been in renewed contact with the RCA over crowd control issues, underlining how seriously it regards such matters and reminding racecourses it has the power to exclude troublemakers where they can be identified – although in the first instance it is largely reliant upon the racecourses themselves and the police for referrals.
A BHA statement issued on Sunday said: "We announced after the violence at Goodwood we would add the issue of security to our areas to examine in our licensing review later this year.
"While the incident at Ascot was quickly contained and smaller in scale, it shows the issues courses face even with good planning and security precautions.
"We've been in contact with the RCA this weekend and know that courses will take into account the incidents as they make security plans ahead of each meeting. The BHA does have the power to exclude individuals from courses and will use it where it can."
Saturday's Ascot brawl broke out shortly after the last race, and having begun high up in the grandstand spilled over on to the street, where police became involved.
Ashley Morton-Hunte, the track's communications manager, said on Sunday: "It had been a quiet day when the incident was first brought to our attention on level four of the grandstand, and it was dealt with really quickly.
"We had increased our quick response numbers anyway in light of recent events and they were on to it straight away. I think the worst of it happened as people were being ejected, just inside the gates, and then more particularly in the High Street, where it carried on."
She added: "We had a full debrief with all involved afterwards and the only injuries we're aware of are two small head wounds received by people involved in the fight."
Thames Valley Police confirmed there were only minor injuries, treated at the scene, and there had been no arrests. They urge anyone with information about the incident to call 101 and quote reference 657 (9/5).
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