Ireland’s racecourses getting ready for when ‘white flag is raised’ on spectators
Fairyhouse boss: no one is working with a specific date but preparations reflect optimism
“The aim is consistency and that racecourses are all singing from the same hymn sheet, so that when the girths are loosened we have our plan”
Ireland’s racecourses are readying themselves for when “the white flag is raised” on spectators being allowed to go racing again.
The prospect of a vaccine rollout for coronavirus has raised hopes that attendances may be allowed on Ireland’s 26 tracks sooner than had been widely anticipated.
Although racegoers will be allowed go racing in some parts of England from this Wednesday, Irish racing continues to take place behind closed doors. However the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) is preparing for when that situation may change in the new year.
“Things could happen very quickly. They’ve changed a lot in the last week to 10 days with vaccines, so we need to be ready. “Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) leads the way. But as racecourses we need to be ready so when the white flag is raised we are ready to rock and roll,” said Peter Roe, manager of the HRI-owned Fairyhouse, on Friday.
He is part of an AIR sub-committee examining the logistics of how tracks organise public safety protocols in what is expected to be a tiered return to normal racecourse service being resumed in 2021.
“Currently we only have essential people. But then you look at the various levels where there may be 500, or a 1,000, 2,000 or 5,000.
“Having 5,000 people at Tipperary is very different to 5,000 at Fairyhouse. We’re putting together our plan so we know this is what we do with the various levels and numbers.
“The aim is consistency and that racecourses are all singing from the same hymn sheet, so that when the girths are loosened we have our plan.
“There’s no point suddenly realising we’re now allowed 1,500 people go racing and how do we decide who’s coming and how we set up,” said Roe.
The Fairyhouse boss said no one was working with a specific date in mind, but such preparations reflected a more optimistic tone for racing’s prospects than had been the case for much of 2020.
He did, however, play down criticism of how Irish racing is taking place behind closed doors while spectators in England can look forward to returning next week.
“We see it but that makes it all the more important we have our plan ready to go as soon as the flag is raised,” Roe said .“In Ireland I think the greatest thing is space. We’re operating at two metres social distancing. If that was to go to one metre then we [racecourses] would have a different plan. There’s an appetite to be ready when HRI tells us to drive on.”