H&H finds out about the huge amount of work bnnig carried out by authorities and organisers, to try to ensure the sport can restart, with hopes that spectators may be allowed to attend
ZONES, “live” streams and cash boosts are helping determined stakeholders to get the 2020/21 point-to-point season safely up and running.
The Point-to-Point Authority (PPA) and organisers have been planning how fixtures can run in line with different levels of lockdown restrictions, working closely with local authorities.
While the racing side of the sport itself is unlikely to be affected by the new “rule of six” restrictions, as an organised sport, protocols will be adjusted accordingly.
Everyone attending will have to sign a code of conduct and provide details for track and trace, and fixtures are likely to be zoned, in a similar way to racing under Rules, where people are allocated a certain zone depending on their role and cannot pass from one to another.
Some early fixtures will be behind closed doors, but the sport is hopeful of allowing the public to return, with the socially distanced nature of managed numbers in large fields, plus the fact spectators tend to operate out of the car park in their own groups, in its favour. This makes it more comparable to a car boot sale or summer fair, on which the PPA is awaiting clarification, and fixtures are making plans to go ahead with or without crowds.
The Jockey Club, Oriental Club and Tattersalls have created a £12,000 pot to help with the running of the first six fixtures. Totnes and Bridgetown Races has provided £10,000 to kick-start the sport in the Devon and Cornwall area, which will go towards race sponsorship, contactless card readers for entrance gates and streaming equipment.
The Ledbury at Maisemore is one of two fixtures running on the opening weekend of the 2020/21 calendar on 25 October, and preparations are well under way.
“We are providing a blueprint for other point-to-points to follow if they have to run behind closed doors,” meeting secretary Jo Wiseman told H&H.
The organisers travelled to Stratford racecourse to learn how Covid-safe protocols are working in racing under Rules and how these could be adapted for their own fixture.
There will be no crowds, no tents, masks will be required in certain areas, online registration and a one-way system. The fixture is also planning on having zones which people would drive directly to and remain in on the day – for example an owners’ zone.
“Our chief steward, Ilona Barnett, has been running Stratford successfully over the summer behind closed doors, so we are taking advice from her, the BHA guidance, the PPA and our local authority, as well as what is happening nationally,” said Mrs Wiseman, adding interest in entries has been strong and the council has been very helpful.
“That’s what we are planning at the moment and we are flexible if guidance changes.”
Devon and Cornwall area chairman Frank Yeo told H&H the indications are that there are at least as many horses in training as normal, “if not more”, and the area is aiming to run a full season of 25 fixtures.
The area has two meetings within the first month, opening the season with the East Devon at Bishop’s Court (24 October).
“We are hoping to run at ‘level four’ [of the PPA’s Covid guidance], which is controlled crowds, but if needed, we will run behind closed doors,” he said.
He added there will be a “live” stream, broadcast with a fractional delay in line with betting integrity regulations, complete with a presentation team. They are also looking at everything including the design and layout of fixture sites, with the possibility of increasing the size of the paddocks and potentially to splitting public areas to help with social distancing.
West Midlands area chairman Jim Squires told H&H any decisions fixtures make regarding how they plan to run must be approved by the local authority.
The Wheatland at Chaddesley Corbett (8 November) is the second West Midlands fixture, two weeks after the Ledbury meeting, with a site well designed for keeping spectators and racing separate, should crowds be permitted.
“Every single option you could think of has been discussed, looked at and will go through the motions of trying to make it work,” said Mr Squires.
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