VRC still hopeful of a crowd at the Cup

Victoria Racing Club chief executive Neil Wilson remains optimistic of some crowd involvement at this year’s Melbourne Cup carnival.

This is despite Racing Victoria along with the Melbourne Racing Club and Moonee Valley Racing Club all but resigned to the major spring race dates being held behind closed doors.

Victoria was sent into a State of Disaster on Sunday with severe Stage Four lockdowns after Melbourne’s metropolitan race clubs had previously been looking at crowd involvement at their major race days.

Wilson said Melbourne Cup week was still three months away and a great deal of change can still happen as has been evidenced by what has occurred in recent months.

“We have done an enormous amount of planning around how the course may be laid out to accommodate different numbers of people,” Wilson told RSN927.

“We have about 127 hectares of space to put people.

“There are an enormous amount of configurations that are possible for us, ranging from what is now zero crowds to 50,000.

“The upper end of that is becoming less likely, but we are working on the basis that things can change between now and Cup week.

“It won’t be the look as in previous years, so we are keeping our options open for as long as we possibly can.”

Different times - the 2019 Melbourne Cup run before packed Flemington stands, picture

Wilson said the VRC relies heavily on Melbourne Cup week to provide it’s main revenue for the Club.

While turnover is up and revenue has remained steady through COVID-19, wagering only makes up around 10 per cent of the VRC’s overall revenue.

“The Club’s business model is very different to what a lot of people think and the fact that wagering continues, which we are enormously grateful for, it is not the solution for filling the gap,” Wilson said.

“We have got membership, we have got our sponsors, we have got our broadcast and media business revenues and they are all hinging on what is happening across Cup week.

“We are looking at a range of different scenarios but financially none of those look attractive in comparison to last year.”

MRC chief executive Josh Blanksby said his club was planning to give those staying at home for the Caulfield Cup carnival the best possible experience.

He said the Club was facing a significant financial hit with no crowds on course.

“It is our time in the sun, our members come along and spend their money as do our sponsors,” Blanksby said.

“Thankfully we still have a carnival, it would be catastrophic otherwise.

“We will still get wagering and media returns.”

MVRC chief executive Michael Browell said there will be a financial hit of millions of dollars with no crowds for the Club’s two-day Cox Plate carnival.

But Browell said the racing industry was blessed to be still racing.

“We need to make sure that we abide by the biosecurity protocols and get through this next six week period so the spring carnival can continue,” Browell said.

“It will be a massive financial hit to the Club but if we can deliver a spectacular 2020 Cox Plate carnival I think that will be a small win for us all.”