Jockey Club calls for government support with fans barred from events

(Reuters) - The Jockey Club on Tuesday backed British sports bodies in their call for financial support from the government following its U-turn on allowing a limited number of spectators to attend events from October amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament that, as part of new restrictions to tackle a second wave of COVID-19, the government was putting on hold plans for 25%-33% capacities from Oct. 1.

Britain’s leading horse racing organisation, which runs 15 race courses in the country, said they respected the decision to pause pilot programs but that the sport’s survival depended on ticket sales from its six million spectators every year.

“The two pilot events staged by Racing showed that we can host people safely with so much outdoor space for social distancing and stringent protocols in place,” Nevin Truesdale, group chief executive of the Jockey Club, said in a statement.

“Without paying spectators, the largest revenue streams for many sports have been cut off for six months to date and, with no prospect of a change soon, this threatens the survival of sports organisations and the many livelihoods they support.”

Truesdale called on the government to provide a financial injection along the lines of the nearly $2 billion invested in cultural institutions and the arts in July after the sector was crippled by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.

“Now is the time that sport needs the government to step in and provide direct support to the industry,” Truesdale added.

“Sport and physical activity sustains 600,000 jobs and contributes more than 16 billion pounds ($20.38 billion) per year to the UK economy.

“British Racing alone contributes more than four billion pounds a year in normal times, which clearly these are not.”

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge