THE Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) this week have taken the opportunity to dedicate this column to thank you, the racegoer and the wider racing industry, for helping to keep racing going last year during very challenging times.

You have stuck with them and their member racecourses while racing behind closed doors, during the phased reopening, ever-changing restrictions and guidelines, and you have always shown their member racecourses continuous support and patience. For this they are most grateful.

It was quite the achievement to keep racing going behind closed doors, but racing without crowds just isn’t what it should be. It’s the spectators who create that exciting raceday atmosphere. It was clear to see that the racegoers’ presence was well and truly missed by everyone working at racecourses nationwide.

A huge amount of work was put into adjusting racecourse facilities so that racing could continue. Facilities were repurposed throughout the pandemic to meet strict protocols, and to allow for social distancing. Public bars and restaurants were transformed into jockeys’ changing facilities, Tote halls became interim weigh rooms, and corporate dining areas were converted to handle stewarding requirements. All of these were needed to keep the show on the road while racing behind closed doors.

When the phased reopening began, racecourses invested substantial resources to establish facilities that could best manage the gradual reopening. However, that was a very complex issue as many on-course amenities were being used to provide covid facilities for essential workers.

Common concerns

Therefore, the possible lack of facilities available to meet reopening protocol requirements, and the quality of the racegoer’s experience when compared to pre-covid days at the races, were common concerns at racecourses during this period of uncertainty.

However, and thankfully, the AIR members made it work and the racegoers’ support throughout this tricky period was most appreciated.

A recent highlight for AIR was when they launched their Proud Member Campaign in recent months. This is very much a sign of solidarity between all racecourses nationwide under the banner of the Association. The initiative is a demonstration of unity and peer-to-peer support amongst members of the Association, and further activation of the objectives set out in their 2020-2024 strategic plan. In that plan keeping all racecourses united, a focus on communications, and an ethos of members supporting one another were all clearly identified as top priorities.

AIR would welcome your support of their racecourses in the year ahead; in these strange times a visit to the races offers a fun and exciting day in a predominantly outdoor setting for racing enthusiasts of all ages to enjoy.

Each racecourse has specific information concerning their unique set of protocols available on their website and or social media pages, The Association encourages you to check this out in advance of your visit to ensure your admittance is as seamless as possible, and they thank you in advance for your understanding, support and patience as they implement the most recent set of public health guidelines at their member’s tracks.