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The turbulent timeline of crowds returning to racecourses

Crowds finally returned to England's racecourses on May 17
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On Wednesday, Ascot confirmed it was set to welcome 12,000 racegoers for each day of the royal meeting in June, which signals another step forward for the sport in its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We take a look at the key dates and moments for racecourses and spectators since the effects of the pandemic kicked in

March 17, 2020
Racing takes place behind closed doors for the first time in Britain as concerns grow over the coronavirus outbreak. The sport subsequently shuts down later that day.

June 1, 2020
Racing resumes for the first time since the national lockdown with a behind-closed-doors fixture at Newcastle.

July 1, 2020
Owners are permitted on course for the first time as part of a one-day test with two owners per horse at meetings at Southwell, the first jumps meeting of the season, and Kempton. They returned officially two days later on Saturday in time for the delayed Derby and Oaks.

July 31, 2020
The first pilot event for crowds returning in Britain, scheduled the following day at Glorious Goodwood, is cancelled. There were 5,000 spectators due to attend the track and the abandonment was reported to cost the racecourse a six-figure sum. The news came following a surge of Covid-19 cases across Britain.

August 18, 2020
On-course bookmakers return to the racecourse at fixtures at Fontwell, Beverley and Kempton.

Racegoers keen to return to racing at Doncaster in September

September 9, 2020
Crowds return to the racecourse for the first time since March for the opening day of Doncaster's St Leger meeting with around 2,500 spectators attending. However, a four-day pilot was reduced to one  with the meeting going back behind closed doors the following day.

September 21, 2020
Second pilot event staged at Warwick with a total of 474 people on course for the Monday jumps fixture. A third planned pilot event for Newmarket for the Cambridgeshire meeting was cancelled later that week following a government decision to cancel all upcoming trial sporting events.

December 3, 2020
Spectators return in England following a surprise announcement from the government to open sporting events with attendance levels in accordance with government-decided tiers. Up to 2,000 racegoers return at Ludlow, Lingfield and Haydock.

December 17, 2020
A change of tiers following another surge of Covid-19 cases forces the King George meeting among others over Christmas to be staged behind closed doors, while further restrictions would follow so only a handful of tracks could welcome a small crowd.

January 4, 2021
Rumours of elite sport suspension are quashed as racing is confirmed to continue behind closed doors, but with no owners or spectators.

March 29, 2021
After an 84-day hiatus, two owners per horse are permitted on the racecourse again at fixtures in England at Fontwell, Stratford, Wincanton and Wolverhampton.

Crowds were back at Carlisle this month

May 17, 2021
Spectators return to racecourses in England with crowds permitted of up to 4,000 or 50 per cent of the track's capacity, whichever is lower. Carlisle, Redcar, Leicester and Windsor are the first to welcome racegoers back. Crowds returned in Scotland at Musselburgh on May 25. Wales could allow racegoers in June, while it could be later in Ireland.

June 15, 2021
Royal Ascot is set to welcome 12,000 spectators each day having been selected as one of the government's pilot test events. If going ahead as scheduled, it will be the first time a racecourse has welcomed a five-figure crowd since the Cheltenham Festival in 2020.

June 21, 2021
The provisional date in England for most remaining social restrictions to be lifted, hopefully allowing for the return of big crowds and a relaxation of social distancing rules.


Read more

Royal Ascot to be allowed crowds of 12,000 a day after selection for pilot event

Irish courses prepared to suffer 'short-term pain' in bid to get crowds back


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There were 5,000 spectators due to attend at Goodwood and the abandonment was reported to cost the racecourse a six-figure sum
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