March 18, 2020
Nanango will be holding a patron-free race meeting on Easter Saturday as Queensland struggles to keep its racing industry alive during the COVID-19 crisis.
On Monday, Racing Queensland (RQ) ruled that all TAB and non-TAB race meetings across Queensland would be conducted without the public until further notice.
RQ introduced the new arrangements in response to a Federal Government ruling that all non-essential organised gatherings of more than 500 people be cancelled to manage the spread of COVID-19.
RQ ruled that all future race meetings – along with trials and trackwork – would be restricted to key race-day personnel.
Track access will be limited to licensed participants who have a horse engaged at the meeting, along with essential club, QRIC and RQ staff; broadcast services; approved accredited media; and associated staff required to conduct racing activities, including vets and ambulance services.
However, access will not be permitted to the public, owners or on-course bookmakers.
“We are experiencing a unique and complex situation which requires Racing Queensland to adopt a uniform approach,” CEO Brendan Parnell said.
“The health and safety of our 40,000 participants, including those who are employed in the industry, remains our top-priority and we will continue to work with our clubs, QRIC and participants to navigate this period.
“We are mindful of the carnivals we have on the horizon – and the impact that this decision may have on our clubs – but it is important that we restrict on-course access in the short-term to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 and the impact to our industry.”
In addition, race day access will not be permitted to any key race-day personnel that:
- Are suffering from COVID-19 symptoms or are otherwise unwell
- Has been to a country considered at higher risk of COVID-19 in the past 14 days
- Are subject to self-isolation requirements imposed by the Government, or
- Has been in close contact with a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19
On Wednesday, Nanango Race Club president Andrew Green confirmed the race club’s popular Easter Saturday meeting on April 11 would be run under the new rules.
He said he was disappointed the general public would not be allowed to attend, but believed the ban was understandable in the circumstances.
“Racing Queensland wants to preserve the State’s racing industry, and this is probably the most sensible way to do it,” Andrew said.
He said the introduction of patron-free meetings meant local race clubs would have to forgo ticket sales, bar sales, sponsorships and canteen sales, but still meet all their other race day overheads.
“Providing RQ can provide the race clubs with a little extra funding to pay for these race day costs, like hiring an ambulance crew for the meeting and covering other overheads, we can go along with this until everything returns to normal,” he said.
“We understand RQ are looking into this right now, and hope there’ll be a positive announcement later this week.”
Andrew said because the ban was indefinite, he was unsure whether Wondai’s Anzac Day meeting or May’s Burrandowan Picnic Races would be affected as well.
“We’ll just have to see how long RQ keeps this ruling in place,” he said.