Rust moves to reassure racing industry ahead of sport's suspension

Racing on hold until the end of April.

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British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust has assured racing participants that every effort will be made to financially support those who work within the industry during the sport’s suspension.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the BHA to call a halt to racing until the end of April, citing the need to “protect essential emergency services and the health and welfare of staff working in the racing industry”.

While those within racing have supported the decision on the whole, there are plenty who are fearing for their financial futures.

“We haven’t got any definitive information at this stage, but the sport’s leadership that helped come together to make the decision, which the BHA board consulted, will be coming together in the coming days to make the point clear (to Government) that as well as being a sport, we are an industry,” Rust told Sky Sports Racing.

“The Government knows that, we have good support in Government, they have been across the decisions we have been making.

“When everything is going right, we employ 17,000 people in racing and another 50,000 or so whose income derives mainly from the sport.”

In light of social distancing and the need for public services on racecourses, Rust felt there was no option but to suspend racing.

“We are taking the right action to keep people safe,” he said.

“We will make the point to Government that many people rely on his industry for employment, it contributes, based on some surveys we’ve done, around £4 billion to the economy.

“It generates that in employment and economic income, so we need the Government to consider the scale of our industry and help support us through this period.

“There are Levy Board reserves that can be called upon, and other funding sources within the industry which we’ll need to examine, which can provide back up so we can provide support where it is needed.

“We’re doing everything we can and we’ll provide as much information as we can, just bear with us. We’ve got senior people working on this and will get information out whenever we can.

“We took the decision for the right reasons, for the public services, but we are acutely aware of the situation within our industry.”

Arena Racing Company’s chief executive Martin Cruddace believes the suspension of racing will have “huge ramifications” for the sport.

ARC owns 16 British racecourses, including Doncaster – home of the traditional Flat season curtain-raiser in the Lincoln – and Lingfield, which would have staged All-Weather Championships Finals Day on April 10.

Cruddace said:”We are obviously hugely disappointed to see racing suspended until at least the end of April, but the safety of all participants, as well as the wider society is paramount.

“Whilst we understand the decision, there is no doubt that the suspension of racing for this period, and possibly longer, will have huge ramifications for the entire ecosystem that racing supports and for the bookmaking industry also.

“We will now look to take every step to support our employees, the business and our partners in the betting industry in the short and long term, and make sure that we are ready to race again as soon as a fully analysed and risk assessed decision to do so is made.”

Horse Racing Ireland announced last Thursday that racing would take place behind closed doors in Ireland until March 29 – and two St Patrick’s Day fixtures at Down Royal and Wexford went ahead on Tuesday.

However, in light of the latest government advice, a decision on whether racing can continue in Ireland is set to be made on Wednesday.

Speaking after saddling a winner at Down Royal, Champion Hurdle-winning trainer Gavin Cromwell said: “We are hugely worried, but they are running a great show here.

“I’m definitely going to have to lay some staff off (if racing is shut down entirely). Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and hopefully we might keep going.

“Racing behind closed doors is working perfectly well. And for people stuck at home, it is some little bit of entertainment for them.”

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