Cheltenham Festival Capacity To Be Capped

Cheltenham Festival Capacity To Be Capped

The 2022 Cheltenham Festival achieved record attendances in 2022 as racegoers flocked to the UK’s favourite jump meeting last March. It was the first Cheltenham Festival to host spectators following two-year’s of government restrictions putting blocks on large crowds.

A record 280,627 people attended this year’s festival, including 73,754 on St Patrick’s Day Thursday and 73,875 on Gold Cup Friday which, track director Ian Renton, stated was “stretching the infrastructure to the limit”.

Despite racecourses struggling to attract crowds this year, with attendances down almost 18% compared to in 2019, new restrictions have been put in place for the 2023 meeting with a maximum capacity set to 274,000 over the four-day period and 68,500 daily, which is aimed at improving the experience of those attending the festival.

Speaking of the new restrictions, Ian Renton said:

It was fantastic to attract capacity crowds on both Thursday and Friday to witness some brilliant racing in glorious sunshine. However, we are well aware that our facilities, even after significant investment in recent years, are stretched at these attendance levels.

Despite the financial implications of reducing attendance numbers, we will be capping daily capacity at 68,500 in the recognition of the importance of ensuring that the festival remains an attractive and enjoyable experience for the long-term.

The capped capacity restrictions will mainly impact the Thursday and Friday of the upcoming festival as the Tuesday and Wednesday in 2022 recorded attendances of 68,567 and 64,431.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen racecourses reduce the capacity for major meetings. This year, the maximum capacity of Royal Ascot was reduced to 44,100. A reduction of over 14% from 2019’s 51,500 attendance.

As well as improving the experience for racegoers within the racecourse, the reduced capacity will also help local authorities tackle anti-social behaviour which has been flagged as an issue during the time of the festival.

Earlier this year, there were talks of a five-day Cheltenham Festival being introduced. Whether or not this would result in further reduced attendances on a daily basis is unknown. However, the addition of an extra day is still under consideration and track director Ian Renton said that if given the go-ahead, this could be implemented by 2024.

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