The potential for spectators to be on racecourses before Christmas has not been ruled out—but Racecourse Association chief executive David Armstrong Nov. 18 stressed there is currently only “a slim chance” of it happening.

Armstrong was following up on media claims that the government is looking to find ways of allowing members of the paying public to attend sporting events in December.

Those reports followed what were said to be “constructive” talks Nov. 17 between the government and football leaders, prompting suggestions fans could be back in England where rates of COVID-19 infections are sufficiently low.

Armstrong said: “To bring 1,000 or even 5,000 people back is an admirable ambition and it would represent a pretty good outcome. It would also be very disappointing if football got something and racing did not. Government have largely been treating sports in the same way, so I would therefore think there is a chance racing could move in line with football. 

“However, I don’t think it is yet baked in stone, and I really don’t think it is certain we’ll be seeing spectators prior to Christmas. Lots more water needs to pass under the bridge.”

British fixtures continue to be attended only by the sport’s professionals and a limited number of owners, with annual members having made only brief returns on single days at Doncaster and Warwick in September. In a further setback, one day after the Warwick trial event the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport informed sports governing bodies the return of fans could be delayed until March at the earliest.

Armstrong added: “I wish I could give better news and say we’ve been told we’re going to get crowds back—but we haven’t yet been told that. However, the good news is that the government is focused on bringing back spectators as soon as they can. 

“We are part of the Sports Technology and Innovation Group, working on solutions that could allow spectators to return in significant numbers, such as how we might incorporate mass testing. We’re looking at a number of different things but, as yet, there isn’t a definite plan. The idea that a small number of spectators might be allowed before that is a separate exercise.”

British Horseracing Authority head of media Robin Mounsey said: “We remain in ongoing liaison with DCMS regarding the return of spectators to sporting events, both through direct routes and racing’s seat on the ‘major sports’ group which supports the work of the Sports Technology and Innovation Group.

“We are currently awaiting further clarity from DCMS on the situation, though we are of course aware that this will be a cross-Governmental decision.”

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