York Racecourse staying positive as crowds could return for Ebor Festival

23 Feb 2021 @ 7.50 am
| Sport

Officials at York racecourse welcomed the news they could be able to admit a full crowd to the Ebor Festival in August.

While the Knavesmire venue narrowly misses out on the possibility of a limited crowd at the Dante meeting which finishes on May 14 – three days before the Government could revise restrictions on spectators at English sports venues – they are instead focusing on the positives.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing his route out of the pandemic, pilot events trialling “enhanced testing approaches and other measures” will be held before a potential lifting of all restrictions on sports and entertainment events from June 21 at the earliest.

The Government’s road map sets out the lifting of lockdown restrictions in four steps.

At each one, the success of the vaccine rollout, vaccine efficacy, the presence of variants and infection rates will be measured before deciding whether to take the next step. There will be a minimum five-week gap between each step.

James Brennan, York’s head of marketing and sponsorship, said: “You could look at it that we’ve just missed the cut-off for the Dante meeting and Chester have missed it for their May meeting, but you could go on and on.

“I suppose the silver lining is we now feel as an organisation we’ve got a positive direction to travel. The Ebor is always our centrepiece and it’s later in the road map as it’s later in the year.”

‘Aim at something’

Forest of Dean ridden by Franki Dettori wins the Sky Bet Stakes during Sky Bet Ebor Day of the Yorkshire Ebor Festival at York Racecourse in 2019. Photograph: Clint Hughes/PA Wire

James said he expected more clarification around larger venues, “and as long as everything goes smoothly between now and then, and as long as there are no mutant strains, we can aim at something.

“There may be a few more bumps on the rollercoaster, but we can perhaps look forward to the Ebor meeting with a little more conviction.”

Brennan believes the space between the possible resumption of full sporting crowds and the beginning of the Ebor Festival could be an advantage.

He added: “It seems like there’s a nice period of time between the June 21 date and August 18 for people to have learned a few things, and we’ve got a date in July to help us decide how it will all operate by then.

“At the moment, as the Ebor meeting is later in the road map and that is our centrepiece meeting, we can feel fortunate about that.

“Whatever event you are running, there will always be someone on the wrong side of the deadline, as we found out today.”