Grand National 2020 cancelled amid pandemic control measures
Aintree Racecourse has announced that next month’s Grand National Festival has been cancelled amid ongoing measures to stem the Covid-19 outbreak.
The meeting was due to take place from April 2nd-4th, with the centrepiece Randox Health Grand National due on the Saturday.
In a statement Aintree Racecourse confirmed that we are living in “exceptional times” and that aborting the Grand National Festival felt like “the responsible thing to do.”
Behind Closed Door option considered
Jockey Club Racecourses, which owns Aintree, had been working on plans to stage the world’s greatest steeplechase behind closed doors, but those plans were shelved following the latest announcements from the UK government on Monday.
Officials confirmed that UK citizens were being told to ‘avoid non-essential contact and unnecessary travel’ and that helped to bring forward a decision to cancel the Aintree meeting.
The British Horseracing Authority had on Monday confirmed that racing in England and Wales is carrying on ‘behind closed doors’ as and from Tuesday 17th March.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also confirmed that mass gatherings would no longer be supported by emergency service workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Aintree confirm Grand National cancellation
Late on Monday evening Aintree Racecourse released a statement confirming the decision had been made to cancel the Grand National, with more than a fortnight still to go.
It wasn’t a decision taken in haste or lightly, but officials are satisfied that it is a ‘responsible’ move in light of the changing nature of the Covid-19 situation.
Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward of the Jockey Club, said: “The Randox Health Grand National festival was just three weeks away and it is very clear to us it will not be possible for the event to take place. Public health must come first.
“We were working on a plan to stage the Grand National behind closed doors given its importance to the racing industry and beyond, but following the new government measures confirmed this evening to help to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, this is not a viable option.
“I know this is hugely disappointing news for the many people who work in our sport and the many millions who were looking forward to this year’s event, but very sadly these are exceptional times and this is the responsible thing to do.”
New Covid-19 measures in effect
As of Monday, the UK government has advised its citizens to avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and social venues. The death toll from the coronavirus had risen to 55 in the UK by Monday.
The Grand National Festival is the latest major sporting event to fall in light of the pandemic.
Premier League football as well as Champions League and Europa League have been suspended, with UEFA, Europe’s governing body, likely to confirm that week that Euro 2020 will not take place this summer.
Major golfing tours around the world have suspended play, while the US Masters at Augusta National – due to take place the week after the Grand National – has been postponed indefinitely.
The ATP and WTA Tennis bodies have also suspended action along with Formula 1 and the Six Nations. European Rugby also confirmed on Monday that Champions Cup knockout stages, due to start in April, have been suspended. In the United States, the NBA were amongst the first bodies to call a halt to their games.
The Jockey Club confirmed their belief that it no longer felt it was ‘appropriate’ to stage the Grand National, while Aintree Racecourse have confirmed that full refunds will be made to all that were booked to attend the 2020 Grand National Festival. These are to be taken care of automatically and within 14 days, said the racecourse in their statement.