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Royal Ascot closes to public but could be staged behind closed doors

Royal Ascot will not be open to the public this year but the door has been left open for racing to take place behind closed doors.

Ascot Racecourse announced last night that the five-day festival in June will be closed to punters for public health and safety reasons due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Chief executive Guy Henderson said in a statement the decision was ‘difficult but unavoidable’.

He said: “It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on Government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA for us to re-start racing.

“This would be for the benefit of the industry, our valued partners and suppliers and our television audiences at home and internationally.

“Planning for this is now our complete focus and we will update on progress as and when we can.”

Discussions are underway with the British Horseracing Authority and other partners to decide whether a quarantine or testing on arrival model could work if the racing goes ahead behind closed doors.

Racing has continued in countries including the USA during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mr Henderson added: “The pandemic will have a significant financial impact on our business in 2020, along with so many others. Nevertheless, Ascot racecourse will come through this crisis and we look forward to being able to welcome racegoers back when it is safe to do so.

“Meanwhile, our thoughts are with all those grieving and suffering as a result of COVID-19. We offer heartfelt thanks to our wonderful NHS staff, key workers and volunteers for all their selfless dedication.”

Ticketholders will be refunded in full and should await contact from the racecourse.

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