The UK government announced their amended tiers earlier today, and the movement of some locations from Tier 2 to Tier 3 has led to a devastating impact for horse racing.
Racecourses in Tier 2 are allowed to welcome a small smattering of punters to trackside, and while that is far from perfect it does swell the coffers of on-course bookmakers somewhat while giving race fans a long-awaited day out.
However, Tier 3 racing occurs exclusively behind closed doors, and some key moves mean that the National Hunt’s eagerly-anticipated festive season will take place almost wholly without spectators.
Surrey was one of the notable movers up a tier to the most serious risk level, and that has considerable consequences for winter racing with Kempton Park now closed to punters. That will mean that its Christmas Festival, which includes the King George VI Chase, the Christmas Hurdle and the Desert Orchid – pencilled in for Altior’s return, will be held in spookily quiet surroundings.
The first major meeting to go behind closed doors will take place at Ascot this weekend, with Berkshire also falling foul of the tier moves announced by Matt Hancock in the House of Commons this morning.
Much of the south east and the whole of Hertfordshire has moved into Tier 3 as well, and so meetings at Sandown and Newbury – ever popular with families over the festive period – will also be closed to the public. All tickets will be refunded from your point of purchase.
For a very small percentage of race fans, the news was much brighter. Herefordshire has been moved into the lowest Tier 1, and that means that up to 4,000 spectators can pass through the turnstiles, while Bath remains in Tier 2 – that enables 2,000 tickets to be sold. However, the government still advises against anything but essential travel across county lines.
Just Four Premier League Clubs Can Welcome Fans
The decision to move London into Tier 3 has had a major impact on Premier League football, with Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and West Ham now all back to hosting their games behind closed doors with no fans present.
Areas in Tier 2 can welcome up to 2,000 fans back into the stands, and that was a privilege that capital clubs have enjoyed for barely two weeks until the government put a halt to that.
Elsewhere, Brighton and Southampton can continue to host supporters despite large swathes of the south being placed into the top tier – including Portsmouth, the neighbouring city to Southampton.
And a comprehensive testing programme appears to have aided Merseyside’s quest to stay in Tier 2, and so Liverpool fans can continue to appear on the famous Kop End along with supporters just across Stanley Park at Goodison Park.
The tiers will be reviewed again in late December, although with some restrictions lifted to allow families and friends to meet over the festive period it seems unlikely any major changes will be made.
Matt Hancock commented that cases in the south east are up 46% in the past week alone, and said:
“No one wants tougher restrictions any longer than necessary. But where they are necessary, we must put them in place to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed and protect life.”