Friday, September 03, 2021

The Association of Irish Racecourses, (AIR), in a Statement issued on Friday, has welcomed clarification on guidelines and the graduated reopening of racecourses which will be effective from Monday, 6 September.

The Curragh    Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The Statement says, “The association represents those who own or operate all twenty six racecourses nationwide. They have lobbied hard to increase attendances at race meetings however, it has been far from straight forward. Our industry is quite extraordinary as covers a multitude of categories namely, agriculture, sport, hospitality and entertainment. Our racecourses are professionally organised events where mass gatherings traditionally have taken place both indoors and outdoors. Following Tuesday’s announcement by An Taoiseach, Michéal Martin, further clarification was sought for AIR Members through Horse Racing Ireland. It has since been agreed that the following guidelines apply during the period 6 September to 22 October inclusive:
Racecourses can facilitate up to 50% of their capacity limit where patrons have mixed immunity in an outdoor setting. 
Indoor settings at racecourses can be opened in line with Failte Ireland guidelines to those who are vaccinated. 
The 50% capacity guideline also applies to bookmakers who will be permitted to attend racecourse betting rings.”
The Statement goes on, “Each racecourse is reviewing the guidelines to determine what is feasible for their unique venue. They will then set out their Covid policy and procedures accordingly for this graduated reopening phase.
It is important to note that no two racecourses are identical, and this will not be a simple flick of a switch for so many who have repurposed their sites to ensure the continuation of racing. Many public and reserved areas have been repurposed and used as weigh rooms, changing areas, press rooms and stewards rooms.

Enthusiasts who regularly attend various racecourse will be acutely aware of just how unique each venue truly is and although the graduated reopening phase is very much welcomed by AIR it will have to be considered on an individual racecourse basis.”

Paddy Walsh, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Irish Racecourses commented “We welcome the graduated return to meaningful crowds at our members racecourses. Racecourses can finally plan for the months ahead with greater certainty than they have had in quite some time. The clarification sought via Horse Racing Ireland for this graduated reopening phase was very important for our members to properly assess what is feasible for each individual racecourse between Monday 6 September and Friday 22 October given their upcoming fixtures and unique circumstances.”

The AIR Statement further adds, “Clarifications released by Horse Racing Ireland, confirmed that 4,000 people will be permitted to attend each day of Irish Champions Weekend, at Leopardstown on 11 September and the Curragh on 12 September. It also confirmed that 2,000 people per day can the weeklong Listowel Harvest Festival which commences on Sunday, 19 September.

The short lead-in time for all three afore mentioned racecourses presents the obvious logistical challenges. Listowel still needs to retain much of its indoor facilities to facilitate key industry personnel namely jockeys, stewards and the media hence the decision to run the meeting as an outdoor only event was essential. The Curragh and Leopardstown Racecourses can revert to pre-covid arrangements and will be able to offer some indoor options to vaccinated patrons.

The agreement has also allowed for up to 50% capacity of the bookies ring back in action during this period, good news for another sector of our industry who were adversely affected by covid-19 restrictions imposed at racecourses.”

Adding to his earlier comments AIR CEO, Walsh continued “With the exception of Listowel, Leopardstown and The Curragh whose position has been publicised, racecourses with fixtures during this period will individually decide how best to operate within the guidelines given their own unique set of circumstances. Provided there isn’t a surge in covid numbers it is with great hope and confidence that all AIR Members are looking forward to 22 October and beyond when we can host sizable crowds once again at our racecourses nationwide.”
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