UK racecourse groups forced to furlough staff due to the coronavirus

The Jockey Club and Arena Racecourse Company (Arc) have been forced to temporarily stand down a significant number of their employees as they count the cost of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is understood the Jockey Club, which is responsible for 15 tracks in Britain and employs approximately 650 people, has furloughed around half its staff in an attempt to protect all jobs. 

Arc has taken similar measures and a "significant proportion" of its approximately 750 permanent employees have been placed on the government's job retention scheme, whereby furloughed staff receive 80 per cent of their salary up to £2,500 per month. 

The organisation, which runs 16 racecourses and five greyhound tracks, is also reliant on around 5,500 casual workers throughout the year and it was announced on Tuesday that those who were on the payroll before February 20 would be furloughed from April 1. 

"The current situation with the coronavirus pandemic and the suspension of horse and greyhound racing has, and will, put a significant strain on our business as we essentially lose all revenue streams through this period," said an Arc spokesman. 

"This decision has not been taken lightly, but we anticipate that it will put Arc in a much stronger position to welcome our colleagues back to work once it is safe to do so and we are operational again."

Arc and the Jockey Club have had to stand down employees from all corners of their businesses but have retained core groundstaff, who will ensure tracks are ready to go when the sport resumes. 

The Jockey Club has also kept on key workers to continue the running of the National Stud and management of its training grounds at Newmarket, Lambourn and Epsom.

BHA reveals monthly savings of £1m as industry battles with coronavirus outbreak

Its decision follows an announcement by the BHA last week that it was furloughing 80 per cent of its employees to limit its costs to the industry by up to £1 million a month during the crisis. 

Racing has been suspended in Britain until the end of April when the BHA will assess the possibility of racing behind closed doors, while the return of jump racing has been delayed until early July.

The Jockey Club was forced to cancel the three-day Grand National meeting, which was supposed to begin on Thursday and, while the festival was insured, the company has nevertheless lost millions of pounds in potential revenue due to cancelled fixtures and events. 

Arc are in a comparable position as other areas of their operation, including conference and hotel bookings, have been badly impacted.

With uncertainty around the resumption of racing, a number of high-profile events remain in the balance and Chester on Thursday announced its decision to cancel its three-day Boodles May Festival. 

It was scheduled to begin on May 5 but organisers did not believe they could draw upon the support required to run the event from bodies such as the emergency services, nor stage the meeting behind closed doors due to the track's proximity to the city centre.

"Like racing fans everywhere, we're disappointed the May Festival won't be able to take place this year because of the social distancing restrictions that are expected to still be in place," said Richard Wayman, chief operating officer at the BHA. 

"Chester's magnificent setting by the city walls makes racing behind closed doors unenforceable. Some courses are suited to racing without the public and that is the focus of the industry's plans to resume from May 1, if that’s possible."