The cancellation of the Aintree Grand National meeting is a “huge blow” to an economy already struggling amid the coronavirus outbreak, a business chief has said.
Frank McKenna, chief executive of Liverpool-based networking group Downtown in Business, said the announcement was the latest hit for Liverpool’s visitor economy – which has already been affected by the cancellation of international conferences and football matches.
He told the PA news agency: “Add the Aintree situation into that equation, and you have literally hundreds of millions to our hospitality sector just gone out of the economy.
“It is a huge blow. It wasn’t unexpected – we were anticipating this decision, but what has been the most disappointing thing is the lack of positive response from the Government to really come up with some very radical proposals now that are going to save businesses from closure.”
Mr McKenna fears it may take a decade for the city’s economy to recover if no Government help is offered.
He said: “We’re looking at job losses, significant job losses – we are looking at establishments closing their doors and perhaps never reopening them.”
He has been in touch with regional political leaders and hopes Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce measures to help businesses on Tuesday.
Chris Brown, director of Marketing Liverpool, said: “The Jockey Club has taken the decision to postpone this year’s Grand National festival, which is without doubt correct because the health of attendees, staff and the wider public must take precedence.
“As one of the biggest weekends in the city region’s calendar, it will clearly have a drastic effect on hotels, restaurants and bars- and all the people whose jobs rely on them.
“We must rally around these businesses as soon as we can to support them through these difficult times.”
Tens of thousands of racegoers were expected to descend on Liverpool for the Randox Health Grand National Festival from April 2-4, with crowds of 70,000 usually cheering on horses in the world-famous steeplechase.
Even before the cancellation, and subsequent announcement on Tuesday afternoon that all other British meetings will not take place either from Wednesday until May at the earliest, it was anticipated the National might well have had to go ahead behind closed doors.
The cancellation of the three-day meeting came on Monday evening, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined new measures to try to control the spread of Covid-19.
Senior steward at the Jockey Club Sandy Dudgeon said: “We were working on a plan to stage the Grand National behind closed doors, given its importance to the racing industry and beyond, but following the new Government measures confirmed this evening to help to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, this is not a viable option.
“I know this is hugely disappointing news for the many people who work in our sport and the many millions who were looking forward to this year’s event, but very sadly these are exceptional times and this is the responsible thing to do.”