Racegoers will be allowed to attend the final day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival after the Government confirmed the fixture would be one of the pilot events to welcome crowds back to elite sporting events in England.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on Friday announced a small number of sporting events, including horse racing, will be used to pilot the safe return of spectators through July and August.
Goodwood has been chosen as the appropriate place for the return of racegoers in a potentially important step forward in the economic recovery of racing from the Covid-19 pandemic – nearly two months after the sport returned behind closed doors.
Attendance will initially be offered to Goodwood annual members and their guests.
David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association and chair of the welcoming crowds industry group, said: “We welcome the fact that horseracing is to be selected as one of the pilot events to welcome back crowds and my team and I acknowledge the great responsibility upon us.
“The safety protocols involved will be stringent and the Goodwood Racecourse team are in a fantastic place to implement them.
“The sport has come together to offer support to ensure the pilot event provides us with sufficient learnings that others may follow in time. These learnings will allow us to draft industry-wide protocols for the wider scale return of crowds as soon as we are able.
“Crowds bring a wonderful atmosphere to a raceday and many businesses associated with racecourses are reliant upon them. I sincerely hope that all involved enjoy their day – our focus now turns to supporting the Goodwood team in what is a landmark day for the sport.”
New safety protocols developed by DCMS, the Sports Ground Safety Authority and racing will be put in place to allow Goodwood to stage an event which will allow 5,000 people, plus participants, onsite.
While the RCA announced attendance will initially offered to Goodwood members and their guests, the pilot will also include new initiatives which may increase the number of owners on course and increase the level of hospitality.
For all racegoers attending the event, a code of conduct must be acknowledged and agreed in advance. The RCA said Goodwood was chosen as an appropriate location for the pilot due to being in a “rural setting with a low prevalence rate of the virus”.
Adam Waterworth, sport managing director at the Goodwood Estate, said: “We are delighted that the Qatar Goodwood Festival has been selected as a pilot event for the return of crowds. It marks an important day for the sports industry following a few challenging months.
“Our annual members have continued to support us throughout, for which we are enormously grateful. It is therefore fantastic to offer them the opportunity to witness racing on the Downs again.
“The Goodwood team will ensure the racecourse adheres to Government guidelines on social distancing and hygiene. We hope that this will be the next step in ensuring crowds for future sporting events.”
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “For months millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top-class sporting event. So I am pleased that we are now able to move forward with a plan to help venues safely reopen their doors to fans.
“I recognise that not every sport, team or club has the benefit of huge commercial revenue, and it is often their dedicated fans that are the lifeblood which helps keep them going. By working closely with sports and medical experts, these pilots will help ensure the safe return of fans to stadia.
“Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country.”