The return of spectators brings greater excitement to racing

The news that Royal Ascot will welcome 12,000 spectators a day this year will come as music to the ears of everyone associated with horse racing. The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the sport, and it’s led to challenges both logistically and emotionally. But now, with Royal Ascot named among the next pilot events to test out the return of spectators, we’ll get to experience some semblance of normality at a high-profile racing event. 

It’s fair to say that the sport has not quite been the same, and there has been an ingredient missing. The empty stands at various meetings have stood as reminders of the difficult times we were facing, and the sight of eager racing fans waving their Betdaq slips and cheering their favourite horses home has been sorely missed. 

But now, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and joy will be in the hearts of all those who have been unable to attend their favourite meetings. Simply put, horse racing is just so much better with spectators. 

Hard times

When the 2020 Cheltenham Festival was taking place, with thousands packed into the Prestbury Park stands and concourses, few could have predicted the turmoil that lay ahead. In essence, that was the last sporting event in the UK that featured capacity crowds, before various lockdown and measures and bans on mass gatherings brought the sporting world to a standstill. 

Since then, horse racing, both national hunt and flat racing, have been defined by soulless, empty venues. There have been some great moments nonetheless, and some fine memories made, but you can’t help but wonder how much sweeter those moments would have been had there been masses of racing fans cheering all the way. 

The absence of spectators have also led to significant losses of revenue for racecourses and other organisations associated with the sport. It’s taken heroic efforts from so many people to ensure meetings were able to take place safely, and they’ll be the ones who take most pleasure from the return of spectators at last.

A joyful return

Yes, with 12,000 fans at Royal Ascot, the roar of the crowd will no doubt bring a few tears to the eyes of those present, whether you’re a spectator, owner, trainer or jockey. It will be interesting to see how the jockeys cope with the return of crowds after a year where they have raced mostly in silence. Most will tell you that the roar of the crowd brings out the best in everyone, and it would be no surprise to see some stellar performances at Ascot as a result. 

Live sport thrives with the presence of a crowd, and there will be smiles all round throughout Royal Ascot’s five days, and the event should pave the way for a greater crowd presence at further events through the summer. It’s been an incredibly difficult time for horse racing, but all that will be forgotten when the horses come thundering up the home straight in the Ascot Gold Cup, with the sorely-missed clamour of spectators ringing in everyone’s ears. 


Pete White Pete White

Love Shrewsbury editor and chief developer at The Web Orchard, find out more on

Read More from Pete White