Health boss instructs Doncaster Racecourse to stop spectators attending St Leger Festival

WATCH: Martin Fisher reports from Doncaster Racecourse as spectators arrived for the first day of the festival.

Doncaster's Director of Public Health, Dr Rupert Suckling has advised for the St Leger Festival to be held behind closed doors from Thursday 10 September.

His statement comes as the first day of the festival gets underway, with spectators arriving at the racecourse.

Spectators attended day one of the festival Credit: PA Images

Speaking on Wednesday 9 September, Dr Rupert Suckling said the festival should be held without spectators from Thursday, on the grounds of public health and public safety.

In his statement, he said: "I wanted to update you on the St Leger and my position considering the factors I mentioned in my previous message. However, as I have already said, I am assessing the situation daily against the 10 tests I set out to hold the event."

He added:

I am concerned that the 10th and final test covering Critical Incident risks addressed throughout the event such as managing gatherings of people, public disorder risks across the borough, will be jeopardised by potentially more people meeting up ahead of any further Government changes to the Coronavirus advice this weekend.

Dr Rupert Suckling, Director of Public Health for Doncaster

His statement continues:

"The current rate of infection for the borough currently stands at 10.6 infections per 100,000 people which I have been updated on today and this is an increase due to a range of factors including an increase in testing and a lag in the test results coming in.

"Therefore on the grounds of public health and public safety I have instructed the racecourse to hold the St Leger Festival behind closed doors from tomorrow.

"The day’s racing will continue today as it is safer to manage racegoers on site and with enhanced test and trace, it will be easier to identify where they are from rather than closing the event today and leaving people to their own devices in Doncaster and the borough generally.

"I appreciate this decision may not be met with universal agreement but it is the safest and most appropriate way to move forward for everyone’s best interests in the borough and beyond."

Doncaster Racecourse has said all customers will receive a full refund.

Mark Spincer, Managing Director of Arena Racing Company Racing Division, which runs Doncaster Racecourse said:

We have had confirmation this afternoon from the Local Authority that we will not be able to admit a crowd to the final three days of the St Leger Festival, Thursday 10 to Saturday 12 September.  The race meeting will continue on a ‘Behind Closed Doors’ basis, as per all other race meetings currently taking place in Britain.

Mark Spincer, Doncaster Racecourse

He added: "This pilot event represents a hugely important step not just for our business but for the whole of British racing as well as the sports and hospitality industries as a whole. 

"We do, of course, fully understand and respect the decision and will be contacting all of our customers booked for the remaining three days as a matter of urgency.

"We were pleased to work closely with Doncaster Council to set up this pilot event in the manner that we had but matters beyond anyone’s control, and the data that regarding local rates that have come to light today, mean we will not be able to welcome a crowd from Thursday onwards."

The Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, who previously criticised the decision to invite spectators to the four day festival, has welcomed the decision. Posting to Twitter, she said:

Holding the St Leger behind closed doors is the right thing to do for the safety of our residents. I welcome this decision as I have said consistently that the risks were too great for Doncaster.

Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster

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