Victorian racing industry endorses mandatory COVID vaccination for health and safety

Racing Victoria (RV) has today announced that it will require all RV staff and all licensed and registered participants to be fully vaccinated against COVID as a condition of entry to its workplaces and to designated licensed premises in Victoria.

The condition of entry requirement, which includes all trainers, jockeys, stable staff and raceday officials, will apply to the racing operations areas at Victorian racecourses on raceday and public training centres, as well as at RV’s Flemington headquarters and offices.

RV is implementing this condition of entry due to the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID pandemic and to provide the safest possible working environment for all by minimising the potential transmission and impact of COVID.

The requirement helps to ensure the safe continuation of racing and training in Victoria, which is integral for jobs and equine welfare, and that the industry is best placed to welcome the return of crowds in any future environment where COVID vaccine passports become central to the conduct of events.

The decision has been made on the advice of RV’s Chief Medical Office (CMO), following a risk assessment and in consultation with key stakeholders including the Australian Trainers Association (ATA), Victorian Jockeys Association (VJA), the three metropolitan Clubs, Country Racing Victoria (CRV), and RV media businesses and Thoroughbred Racing Productions (TRP).

The risk assessment considered, among other things, the movement of participants across the state; the nature of industry work which, in normal circumstances, includes officiating and travelling with others in close quarters; and the level of engagement with non-licensed persons, including owners and spectators, in a desired racing environment.

The decision carries the support of the majority of Victorian licensed and registered participants surveyed on an anonymous basis last week on vaccination. A total of 3,436 participants were invited to offer their opinion with 1,590 choosing to do so, representing a significant sample of the participant group. Of those respondents, 64 per cent said that it should be a requirement for participants to be vaccinated.

The survey further identified that 67 per cent of Victorian participants were already fully or partially vaccinated, a further 15 per cent were intending to be vaccinated and that 10 per cent were still to decide. Eight per cent signalled their initial desire not to be vaccinated.

Further consultation will now occur with industry representative bodies and employee representatives on the implementation of the new condition of entry requirement, including operational requirements and lawful exceptions.

The requirement will also be regularly reviewed following implementation in line with the state of the COVID pandemic and associated risks.

Acting on the advice of its CMO in relation to vaccination supply and risk, the condition of entry requirement will take effect from the following dates:

  • With effect from Saturday, 16 October 2021 (Caulfield Cup Day), all licensed participants and RV staff are to have obtained a first COVID vaccination as a condition of entry to RV premises, racecourses on raceday and designated licensed premises in Victoria, unless the person is the subject of a lawful exception; and
  • With effect from Saturday, 27 November 2021 (Zipping Classic Day), all licensed participants and RV staff are to be fully vaccinated against COVID as a condition of entry to RV premises, racecourses on raceday and designated licensed premises in Victoria, unless the person is the subject of a lawful exception.

The condition of entry will apply equally to all out-of-state participants attending the racing operations areas of a Victorian racecourse on raceday or designated licensed premises, and any industry personnel involved in the operation of a raceday, unless a lawful exception applies. Further, when owners are permitted to once again attend race meetings, access to the mounting yard will be subject to the vaccination condition of entry in line with participants.

Victorian thoroughbred racing has enacted strict biosecurity protocols throughout the COVID pandemic in order to maintain 25,000 full-time equivalent jobs across Victoria and to ensure essential care and exercise is delivered for the state’s thoroughbred racehorse population.

Quotes attributable to RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson

“It has been widely acknowledged that the only way out of the current COVID pandemic is to increase vaccination rates within the community to allow greater freedoms and the resumption of things we love, like a day at the races with our family and friends.

“Unlike other sports, racing operates on a year-round daily basis with a highly mobile workforce, so it is therefore imperative that we do our utmost to protect the health and safety of our workforce and of the industry, which has been able to safely continue over the past 18 months courtesy of strict biosecurity protocols.

“The advice from our Chief Medical Office and our risk assessment has determined that mandatory COVID vaccination is the right decision for the health and safety of our staff, participants and industry in these extraordinary times, and that’s a majority view that has come from our participants also when surveyed.

“Our participants want to protect themselves, their families and their livelihoods as social restrictions ease in the future and we see greater movement across the state and mandatory vaccination as a condition of entry is our way to do that.

“I want to let our participants and staff know that whilst we have set important deadlines for compliance, we will continue to monitor vaccine supply in the weeks ahead and retain some flexibility if issues arise, particularly for the younger members of our workforce.

“We’ll also continue to regularly review the requirement following implementation to ensure that it remains an appropriate measure to keep our people safe and to ensure the continuation of racing.

“The possibility of crowds at our major racedays later in spring and beyond that into 2022 is an important target for our industry and we need to ensure that we’re appropriately placed to welcome spectators back in a safe manner at the earliest opportunity, whilst protecting our staff and participants, and continuing to race.

“I would like to thank all industry participants and RV staff in advance for their efforts in achieving a fully vaccinated workforce and for continuing to play their role in ensuring a safe and successful Victorian racing industry.”

Quotes attributable to VJA Executive Officer, Matt Hyland

“The VJA is supportive of RV’s decision to introduce mandatory vaccination as a condition of entry. It’s going to be beneficial for the safety of our members and other participants in the industry, and importantly it will give us the best chance to safely continue racing.

“The vast majority of our members are already vaccinated or are on the pathway to getting it done so they realise the importance that vaccination plays for their health, their livelihoods and to get back to doing the things they love like travelling.”

Quotes attributable to ATA Chief Executive, Andrew Nicholl

“We understand there will be individuals who will be uncomfortable with today’s announcement. These individuals must also acknowledge that Racing Victoria has a responsibility to protect the racing community and racing product in this state.

“Introducing this mandate – which will operate with a range of protocols that have been diligently employed over the last 18 months – will, in RV’s view, provide greater certainty for the 25,000 Victorians employed in this industry, that racing will continue without disruption across the coming months.    

“There is no doubt the circumstances that exist in Victoria at this minute are challenging for everyone.  In light of this, for those participants and their staff who rely on racing for their livelihood, for the owners who support those participants, and more broadly, for the community at large who enjoy their racing, the ATA believes the mandate announced today by RV is a responsible action at this time.”