12:24PM, Monday 04 October 2021
Ascot Racecourse said 2020 was a ‘difficult year’ with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic having a ‘significant’ impact of its finances.
Ascot Authority Holdings Limited reported a pre-tax loss of £220,000 last year, compared with 2019 when it made £7.3m in profit, according to the publication of its 2020 financial results.
Turnover was down 77 per cent due to COVID-19 restrictions with only two race days being held with crowds. Eighteen had to run behind closed doors.
Five race days were lost as a result of the pandemic and one was abandoned due to bad weather.
Ascot Racecourse was also forced to restructure its staff as a result.
However the racecourse added that it would have made a pre-tax loss of more than £31m without pandemic insurance, the furlough scheme and business rates relief.
Guy Henderson, chief executive officer at Ascot Racecourse said: “2020 was naturally a difficult year with trading conditions and results severely affected by the Covid-19 restrictions.
“Ascot had to reduce fixed costs at the end of 2020. Having to lose dedicated and loyal employees, who had contributed to Ascot’s success over recent years, was hard for all concerned.
"I wish to pay tribute to and thank all our staff for their dedication and commitment in such difficult and uncertain times.
“We also wish to thank all our partners, suppliers, sponsors and various customers for their support."
The racecourse had a £20m loan on standby (but not drawn down) until 2023, arranged through the Government coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme.
Its gross debt was £59.4m on December 31 compared to £57.4m in 2019.
Mr Henderson added: “Without pandemic insurance this year and with strict limits on crowds at Royal Ascot for the second year, we currently forecast a significant pre-tax loss in 2021.
“That said, the business is on track to end the year without having to increase debt in 2021. This will provide a solid platform from which to bounce back from the pandemic in 2022 and 2023.
“Prize money and capital investment have inevitably been impacted as a result of the pandemic.
"We plan to build back on both fronts to pre-COVID levels as prudently and as quickly as practicable from next year. Attracting and rewarding the best quality racing and providing top class facilities are important business priorities.
“Royal Ascot in the Platinum Jubilee year will be a huge celebration and our focus is on delivering a unique event for everyone to enjoy across the globe.”
Racing will return to Ascot this weekend with its autumn racing weekend and Ascot beer festival.
Racing highlights include two Group 3 contests and the most valuable seven-furlong handicap run anywhere in the UK, the £125,000 Challenge Cup.
The UK has voted to leave the European Union in yesterday's referendum - and while the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead fell into the remain camp, Slough voted to support a Brexit.