Plans to allow racegoers to attend the final day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival have been scrapped after the Government announced the cancellation of further pilot events for the return of crowds to sporting venues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Sussex Downs were due to welcome a crowd of 5,000 on Saturday, which would have been the first time racegoers have been allowed on a racecourse since March.
The fixture was selected as part of a series of pilot events, along with two county cricket matches and world championship snooker at The Crucible in Sheffield.
However, an announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a news conference on Friday lunchtime means racing at Goodwood will again take place behind closed doors.
Johnson said: “Indoor performances will not resume, pilots of larger gatherings in sports venues and conference centres will not take place, and wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be permitted.”
A two-day county cricket friendly between Surrey and Middlesex took place with spectators in attendance earlier this week, but it appears that for the time being that will be as far as it goes in a tightening of restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus.
A statement was released on behalf of the British Horseracing Authority, Racecourse Association and Goodwood shortly after the Prime Minister’s announcement.
The statement read: “The Government has informed racing’s leaders in the past hour that it has withdrawn permission for a pilot event involving customers to proceed at Goodwood tomorrow. The racing on Saturday will continue behind closed doors as it has on the earlier days of the Festival.
“The Prime Minister is setting out the rationale for the Government’s decision but we understand that concern about the national infection rate is the primary reason, and as a result all pilots of larger crowds in sporting venues will be postponed until at least August 15.
“Goodwood Racecourse and the Racecourse Association have been leading work on the pilot event, with the safety of Members and all those attending as the most important priority. Government and public health officials, national and local, have been briefed throughout on the plans and had approved the approach being taken. We are clear that the decision to cancel is not a consequence of any concerns about these plans or the measures taken by Goodwood to keep attendees safe but relates to the changing national situation.
“We are very disappointed for those who were hoping to attend tomorrow’s event and for all those who have worked so hard to make it possible for spectators to be present. We will engage with public health authorities and DCMS over a rescheduled pilot at the earliest opportunity.”
David Armstrong, chief executive of the RCA, said: “The RCA is very disappointed to learn that the pilot event at Goodwood Racecourse scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed. We understand and respect the issues raised within the Prime Minister’s announcement and have always maintained that public health has been paramount to any event, be it racing resuming behind closed doors or with crowds.
“The work undertaken by the sport, and especially the Goodwood team, to bring the safety protocols to life has been very thorough and detailed. It is worth reiterating there were no concerns with the protocols put in place by the sport and Goodwood Racecourse and we wish them the very best for the final two days of the Qatar Goodwood Festival which will take place behind closed doors.
“The RCA will continue to work closely with Government to plan future pilot events to welcome back crowds subject to the latest public health advice.”