‘Beginning of the end’ – Chelmsford slammed for denying general admission | Horse Racing News

Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

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Chelmsford: only offered hospitality to non-members for Thursday evening’s fixture

Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

Chelmsford insists it has no plans to move its racing permanently behind closed doors after staging Thursday evening’s additional fixture without offering general admission entry for the public, which sparked criticism from those in attendance.

The six-race card was one of six meetings added to the calendar following the loss of fixtures in the period that followed the Queen’s death this month.

The independently-owned track took on the fixture despite its sports bar – a main facility for general admission racegoers – being booked for a private event, and only offered a hospitality package to members of the public looking to attend.

Around 60 people took up the offer for a four-course meal, but otherwise only the track’s members, trainers and owners were in attendance.

Nathan Holmes, commercial director at Chelmsford, said: “We understand there were a few grumbles about the decision with Thursday’s evening meeting, so being able to give a clearer picture is very important.

“The BHA approached us and several other racecourses towards the end of last week about the opportunity to save several meetings. We opted for one of them, and the basis of that decision was that they needed horses of a certain level to be given an opportunity to run

“We wanted to try and support that initiative but the challenge was that there was only going to be six days to pull together the public side of things. The sports bar, which is our main general admission facility and includes bars and our main food outlets , was already hired by a member of the public services branch for a private event.

“Like many sports venues up and down the country, we do use our facilities to try and encourage private hire and venue hire business. It had been hired for months in advance, which meant we could not facilitate general admission.

“We still wanted people to come racing, but ultimately we couldn’t deliver a good enough experience for those people who were going to attend on short notice.”

He added: “This was a decision taken under very abnormal circumstances. We have absolutely no interest in going behind closed doors. Chelmsford racecourse will never do behind-closed-doors racing unless there is some sort of disastrous reason, such as Covid, when we were told to by a governing body.

“We really believe that racegoers are so fundamental to the future of this sport. To try and discourage them from coming is something we have absolutely no interest in doing.”

Former trainer John Ferguson was among the small crowd on course and felt the decision not to have general admission is concerning.

Ferguson said: “I was there and there was hardly anyone there as there was no general admission. It was like going back to racing under Covid restrictions. It’s the beginning of the end if this sort of thing is going on.”

Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)

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Julia Feilden: criticized the track's decision not to open up to general admission

Julia Feilden: criticized the track’s decision not to open up to general admission

Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)

Trainer Julia Feilden said “there was no atmosphere” at the Essex track and similarly compared it to racing behind closed doors.

She said: “It was like being in lockdown – it was absolutely ridiculous. There was nobody there except owners really. Everyone was saying how there was no atmosphere; it was absolutely dead.”

The other five additional fixtures will be staged at Arena Racing Company-owned tracks Southwell, Yarmouth, Newcastle and Wolverhampton, with grandstand tickets available to purchase in advance on each of the racecourse websites.

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