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Changes to protocols as discussions continue

Earlier this week, the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) requested a formal meeting with Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) regarding the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. The Association represents all 26 racecourses nationwide.

Paddy Walsh, chief executive officer of AIR, said: “Although we appreciate that navigating the reopening of society and easing of restrictions is an onerous task, our members are frustrated. They have done everything that has been asked of them; facilities have been turned inside out to ensure that protocols and guidelines have been meticulously adhered to at tracks nationwide.

“While the Association fully respects public health, restrictions have eased considerably in other sectors and sports, and we would like to see more progress in this regard for our members and the wider horse racing industry.”

On Thursday, senior officials from all three organisations met online to discuss Covid-19 protocols and the easing of restrictions at AIR members’ racecourses.

All parties commended the extraordinary efforts made by racecourses and their teams to ensure horse racing continued throughout the pandemic. By implementing the many protocols required for racing to continue, members of the Association ensured continuity within the wider industry and employment for those who depend on it.


It was also acknowledged that AIR member racecourses, and those that supply them, have been most adversely affected by the pandemic. Racecourse business models have changed exponentially, yet members of the Association have enabled more than 400 race meetings to take place since June 2020, thus ensuring the continuity of racing and the livelihoods of many who depend on it.

Progress was reviewed and it was acknowledged that representation of the industry through HRI during the pandemic has been exemplary. Requests for the easing of restrictions and exceptional circumstance cases have been diligently put forward, and contact with the Government on all levels has been on a daily basis over the last 18 months.

Although it has to be acknowledged that horse racing has benefitted from being treated independent of other sports and outdoor entertainment events to date, public health guidelines in relation to capped attendances is a frustration shared across the industry.

Special requests

Exceptional circumstances in relation to attendances were requested for the Curragh, Galway and Leopardstown, and resulted in 1,000 spectators attending the Irish Derby, 1,000 spectators a day permitted to attend the Galway races, while the Leopardstown appeal was unsuccessful.

Similar requests for exceptional circumstances have been put forward by HRI for review by the Government in relation to the Harvest Festival at Listowel and Irish Champions Weekend at both the Curragh and Leopardstown.

In addition to this, a request to ease restrictions at racecourses in general and to permit increased attendances nationwide has also been submitted and is being considered, along with a request to review indoor dining guidelines at racecourses. The Association is hopeful of some positive news in this regard.

No masks

Covid-19 protocols and procedures at racecourses were also discussed on Thursday, and with immediate effect the wearing of face coverings when in an outdoor setting at racecourses is no longer mandatory, with the sole exception of the parade ring.

The protocol still stands within parade ring enclosures to protect key industry participants.

Improvements to the IHRB Covid-19 screening app are now complete and it is currently with the App Store waiting to go live. This is a welcome development and will facilitate smooth IHRB Covid-19 screening on race days.

Close consultation will continue over the coming weeks, with all parties committed to playing their role in supporting the industry’s best efforts to encourage the easing of restrictions, all the while protecting the continuity of racing and overall public health.

By Leo Powell,

Irish feild

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