Final preparations underway as Doncaster's St Leger Festival set to welcome spectators despite criticism

WATCH: Martin Fisher reports ahead of the first day of the St Leger Festival on Wednesday.


Final preparations are being made ahead of the St Leger Festival, which starts at Doncaster Racecourse on Wednesday 9 September.

The government has given the go ahead for thousands of people to attend the four day event. It's one of the first sport pilot events to introduce spectators back to fixtures.

In a statement, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said:

Pilots will still be required to receive all relevant local authorisations including their local Safety Advisory Group. Locations and attendance levels may change depending on the local Covid situation.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport statement

The course says it has put a number of safety measures in place and crowds are being asked to follow a strict set of guidelines.

Strict coronavirus restrictions will be in place at this year's festival Credit: PA Images

Ahead of the festival, Public Health and safety experts at Doncaster Council have confirmed that all the required tests and event planning requirements for the event have been fully satisfied.

Director of Public Health for Doncaster, Dr Rupert Suckling, said:

I insisted on stringent tests being met before I could be assured and confident that the event should proceed with spectators. I am now assured and satisfied that the racecourse, which has been positively working with us and other partners in the borough, has put the required measures in place to ensure the festival can be as safe as it can be.

Dr Rupert Suckling, Director of Public Health for Doncaster

He explained he will be monitoring the situation on a daily basis and says he will take any necessary action.

The racecourse has set out a Code of Conduct for all spectators to follow to ensure everyone's safety.

Rules include celebrating with silent cheers and clapping, to avoid spreading Covid-19, wearing face masks on arrival, exit, when in a queue, visiting the bar, bookmakers or the toilets and observing 2 metre social distancing protocols at all times.

All payments, with the exception of those made to bookmakers, will be cashless.

But the move to invite crowds into the festival has been criticised by both the town's Mayor and angry residents.

A petition set up calling for a stop to the event has generated more than 5,500 signatures.

Chris Brodhurst-Brown, who started the Stop the St Leger, Protect OUR Town petition, explained on the change.org website: "We feel that to hold the St Leger in 2020 will create large amounts of unnecessary risk and could undo the amazing efforts of people in our community. "

In a statement released on Tuesday 8 September, the town's mayor, But Ros Jones said allowing spectators into the festival is a major risk for the area.

My personal opinion remains that the festival is a major risk for the borough that I would rather not see happen but, there are no current grounds that can be escalated for it to be held behind closed doors. This event, I reiterate, has been imposed upon the borough by Government as part of a national pilot for spectators to return to sporting events.

Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster

She added: "From the beginning of this pandemic I promised to follow the science and take on board the recommendations and advice of our Director of Public Health and our Chief Executive. The tests that were put to the racecourse have widely been met, and these will be monitored daily.

"I fully recognise the need to get back to some sort of normality and appreciate the economic benefits that the St Leger Festival brings to Doncaster but I believe the risk is too great as we are seeing rising infection rates nationally.

"I urge everyone attending the St Leger Festival to follow the guidance, ensure social distancing and to keep themselves and others safe. I would also ask people to behave responsibly in and outside of the racecourse and help the festival pass successfully for the borough."