An update for Owners on COVID-19 challenge

Today marks two months since the introduction of social restrictions and necessary industry biosecurity protocols that have allowed racing and training to safely continue in Victoria.

Driving us through this period of time has been our objectives to protect the health and wellbeing of industry staff, participants and the wider community; to support the 25,000 full-time equivalent jobs that our industry underpins; and to ensure that all horses receive ongoing care and attention.

I’m incredibly proud of the efforts of all within our industry to reach this milestone and thankful each day for the opportunity to safely continue racing to protect the livelihoods of all those people who depend on it.

I’m equally appreciative of our racehorse owners who’ve helped underpin the many jobs that fuel the Victorian racing industry, whilst ensuring that their horse receives the best care and attention.

I know for some owners that the continuation of racing has been bittersweet at times. Yes, your horses have been able to compete, but equally I know how many owners would dearly love to be trackside cheering on their pride and joy or visiting the stables to give them a pat.

On behalf of the industry, I want to thank all owners for their support, cooperation and understanding during this challenging time and importantly for their continued investment in Victorian racing.

I also want to congratulate those owners who have shared in the joy of winning one of more than 700 races conducted in Victoria since the protocols were introduced.

In answer to the obvious question, “when can owners get back to the track or the stables?”, unfortunately that remains unclear at this time.

Further Government announcements in the weeks ahead will hopefully provide us with more clarity. In reality, any changes to racecourse access prior to the end of this racing season will be a welcome bonus and naturally competing owners will be among the first considered.

I will endeavour to keep you updated on any significant developments on this front in the weeks and months ahead.

In the meantime, I wish to provide owners with an update on three key areas – industry biosecurity protocols, Government funding support and planning for the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival.

Industry Biosecurity Protocols

You will be aware that Victoria has taken its first cautious steps to social and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic with the easing of some restrictions from today.

The Premier announced this week that gatherings of up to 10 people for recreational activities and visits by up to five family members or friends to a household will be permitted from today until midnight on Sunday, 31 May when a further announcement on restrictions will be made.

A meeting between Racing Victoria and representatives from industry stakeholder groups, including TROA, yesterday determined that we will act with an abundance of caution and that there will be no change to our biosecurity protocols at this time.

The industry working group will continue to review the protocols on an ongoing basis, in particular taking into account experiences over the next three weeks as the Government’s first cautious steps in the easing of social restrictions take effect.

The group will also continue its planning around any potential changes to the protocols when social restrictions are eased further in Victoria at any point in the future.

The biosecurity protocols we have in place go over and above Government directives, guidelines and advice and they are what have allowed us to ensure the safe continuation of racing and training over the past two months.

The Government has stated that Victoria can expect more positive cases and outbreaks as it starts to ease restrictions. As a result, we must continue to do everything in our power to minimise the risks of an outbreak occurring in our industry.

Maintaining the current restrictions around race meetings, training centres and Licensed Premises gives us the best shot to continue racing for the benefit of all stakeholders without the need for any shutdown due to an outbreak.

Government Funding Package

I’m pleased to report that the Victorian Government has today released its ‘Experience Economy Survival Package’ which serves to provide vital funding to sporting, cultural and tourism businesses and industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Victorian thoroughbred racing generates $3.2 billion in annual economic activity for the state and supports the equivalent of 25,000 jobs. Overall, there are 110,000 people who are employed or participate in Victorian thoroughbred racing and close to 10,000 racehorses in training each year.

While racing in Victoria has largely been able to continue under strict biosecurity protocols during the pandemic, industry revenue has been significantly impacted due to the lockout of crowds and reductions from the VicTAB Joint Venture.

The social restrictions and necessary protocols have hit our 69 racing clubs – 66 of which are based in regional and country Victoria – hard with meetings cancelled, non-raceday events banned and the exclusion of crowds meaning lost employment, hospitality, dining and sponsorship opportunities.

The Victorian Wagering Licence sees the state’s three racing codes receive returns from VicTAB wagering on all domestic and international sport and racing, much of which has ceased. The shutdown of pubs, clubs and TAB agencies has further compounded this.

RV will receive $16.6 million from the ‘Experience Economy Survival Package’ which will provide necessary short-term funding until 30 September 2020 to ensure the following:

  1. Maintain current reduced prizemoney levels and ensure no further cuts are required for the period. Prizemoney is the lifeblood for industry participants and underpins industry investment and jobs. It was cut by 20% for all Victorian metropolitan races and 10% for all country races on 6 April 2020;
  2. Provide funding support to Racing Clubs across the state whose operations have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions. The Government package will ensure that Club funding can be maintained at pre-COVID-19 levels for the period;
  3. The continuation of equine and participant welfare programs, ensuring that RV’s three-year equine welfare strategic plan can continue to be progressed without impediment; and
  4. Maintain essential infrastructure programs and projects to ensure the safety and viability of all participants through appropriate racing and training facilities.

We welcome and thank the Victorian Government and Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, for this vitally important funding contribution which helps support our industry through the short-term challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This investment will protect jobs in our industry; ensure the continuation of critical welfare programs and infrastructure works; and help support our Racing Clubs who have been greatly impacted by the restrictions in place.

2020 Spring Racing Carnival

Whilst racing has been able to safely continue during the pandemic, all other professional sports in Australia were forced to cease competition.

From today onwards, professional sports are able to resume training in Victoria in a controlled environment and we expect announcements over the coming days and weeks about the resumption of their competitions.

I know there is great interest in what this means for the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival, particularly in relation to the revised AFL fixture and any potential clashes.

As I’ve stated on numerous occasions, we won’t be making decisions around individual meetings, programs and prizemoney until June when we have a clearer view on the likely restrictions in place come spring.

The programming decisions we make, in consultation with our Clubs and the participant groups, will take into consideration a range of matters including whether crowds are permitted or not, broadcast arrangements, wagering considerations and the State’s sporting and events calendar.

Make no mistake though, it is our absolute intention to conduct the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival based on our well-established and successful racing program.


In closing, I want to again thank all owners for their continued support of Victorian racing and wish you every success on the racetrack.

Giles Thompson
Chief Executive
Racing Victoria