The worrying impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the British racing industry is causing increasing concern amid a surge in cases, with the impact on one county alone estimated to be more than £110 million.
The British Horseracing Authority continues to keep the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments updated on the financial impact of the pandemic and its effects on rural economies that rely on the industry.
However, with racing being the second-most-attended spectator sport in the country in normal times, the effects of a lack of spectators are causing severe problems.
“Without the millions of people who normally enjoy a day at the races, many people’s jobs are at serious risk, as are the businesses they work in,” the authority said in a statement late last month, when the government announced a delay in the return of spectators to meetings as case numbers surged during the approach to winter.
The authority described delays to the public’s return to meetings as a serious blow to the industry and to the people and communities who depend upon it for their living. The sport, it said, had worked hard with public health officials to return safely.
Racing has been continuing under behind-closed-doors protocols, with spectator pilot events having been staged for government evaluation.
Racing authorities say they are confident racing remains at the front of the queue for the return of crowds.
However, the recent publication of a study on the effects of Covid-19 on Yorkshire’s racing industry points to the scale of the problem.
It reveals that the horse racing industry normally contributes more than £300 million a year to the Yorkshire economy, but the pandemic has put a major hole in that number this year.
The study into the economic impact of racing in the county was carried out by the Centre for Regional and Economic Research at Sheffield Hallam University.
Using pre-Covid data from 2019, the study revealed that the horseracing industry in Yorkshire contributes £300.2 million to the county’s economy, through both racing and non-race-day events.
Among the key findings were that racegoers spent £34.1 million off-course, on things such as transport, food, beverages and hotels, while those attending the racecourses for non-racing events such as conferences spent £15.3 million in the county.
The industry supports more than 3600 full-time equivalent jobs, more than three-quarters of which are in rural areas. More than 2400 horses are trained in the county, which represents 17% of all racehorses trained in Britain, while the county is home to 15% of Britain’s trainers.
John Sexton, chairman of Go Racing In Yorkshire, which commissioned the research following funding from the Racing Foundation, said: “The study was commissioned before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and the effects are being felt in Yorkshire as much as any other part of the world.
“This timely piece of research reinforces how vital horseracing is to the Yorkshire and rural economy, plus the social and community aspect of the industry.
“Early assessments show that Covid-19 could reduce the impact of racing on the Yorkshire economy by 72% at a cost of £114.8m, underlining that the sooner we can get back to normality the better.”
Ian Wilson, the deputy director of the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research and author of the study said the work reveals the value of Yorkshire’s horseracing industry to both the economy and social fabric of the region.
“As well as making a significant economic impact, the industry supports more than 3600 full-time equivalent jobs in the region, over three-quarters of which are in rural areas — where it is a main employer.”