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British horse racing suspended until end of April

17th March 2020 2:08 pm GMT

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has confirmed that all horse racing in Britain will be suspended until the end of April, with effect from Wednesday.

Having announced Monday that British racing was to continue behind closed doors, the BHA has now changed stance and decided to cease all race meetings until the end of April, based on new advice issued by the UK government to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision takes effect from Wednesday and has been made to protect essential emergency services and the health and welfare of staff working in the racing industry, following consultation with senior industry leaders and medical advisers to the Racecourse Association (RCA) and the BHA.

The Jockey Club has already cancelled this year’s Grand National Festival, one of the most popular events on the racing calendar.

“This is a national emergency the likes of which most of us have never seen before,” said BHA chief executive Nick Rust. “We’re a sport that is proud of its connection to rural communities and to the local businesses that support our industry. But our first duty is to the health of the public, our customers and to racing industry participants and staff so we have decided to suspend racing following the government’s latest advice.

“Racing is a family and I know we will pull together over the coming days, weeks and months and support each other. By stopping racing, we can free up medical resources, doctors and ambulances, be they private sector or NHS, to assist in the national effort to fight this virus. And we can support racing industry participants and staff as they face up to the personal challenges ahead and care for their own families.”

London-listed operator GVC Holdings said that the suspension will have an incremental impact on its 2020 EBITDA of between £20m and £25m per month, before any mitigating actions.

The operator had previously warned that the significant reduction in sporting events as a result of the coronovirus could reduce its full year EBITDA by between £130m and £150m. This included the assumption that major racing events such as Aintree and Royal Ascot would be cancelled, but that all other horse racing would continue behind closed doors, which will now not be the case.

Shares in GVC Holdings plc (LSE:GVC) were trading down 15.54 per cent at 312.50 pence per share in London Tuesday, having hit a new 52-week low of 310.80p during trading. The UK’s other leading operators continue to see their share prices slump, with shares in William Hill plc (LSE:WMH) declining 19.29 per cent to 53.22p in London today, and shares in Kindred Group plc (STO:KIND) down 6.94 per cent to SEK24.53 in Stockholm.

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