Virus racing ban to hit casual workers

Mark Oberhardt

The decision to bar spectators from south east Queensland race meetings will have consequences away from racing.

The coronavirus is not the only problem facing Queensland authorities as lobbying over race dates and media rights intensifies.

Racing Queensland officials will attend a meeting of race club chiefs on Monday when a plan to handle the coronavirus ahead of the rich winter carnival will be determined.

The federal government recommendation on gatherings of more than 500 people comes into play on Monday.

This will affect metropolitan meetings but the fate of country and provincial meetings will be up for debate although they are also likely to be closed-shop affairs.

There are 14 race meetings listed for Queensland in the next seven days and apart from two it is unlikely any would attract 500 members of the public.

The decision will have a big impact on casual workers at metropolitan meetings.

At Saturday meetings there are more than 200 people working as totalisator operators, bookmakers and clerks, bar attendants, security staff, food outlet operators, chefs, and cleaners.

It will also hit taxi and Uber drivers as well as car park attendants.

In the background there is also plenty of concern about race dates which need to be finalised soon.

The major stumbling block is a stand-alone Saturday metropolitan standard race date for Toowoomba in late September.

It is understood Toowoomba was promised the date if it moved its Weetwood Handicap meeting from the first Saturday in April to September.

The the new date would coincide with the annual Carnival of Flowers and be part of a tourism promotion.

The Brisbane Racing Club wants 45 meetings while the Gold Coast (four or five), Sunshine Coast (two or three) and Ipswich (one) need to be accommodated.

It is likely the BRC will not get its full total but there is mounting speculation about the future of Tattersall's Club meetings which are usually held at Eagle Farm and Doomben.

Tatt's races four times a year and there has been a suggestion it should move two of its meetings to the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast.

The idea is understood to be opposed by Tattersall's.

Media rights are also a hot topic with various groups split on whether to remain with Sky Channel or switch to Racing.com and Channel 7.

Sky Channel is favoured to retain the rights but there is still a faction within the Queensland industry keen to get free to air coverage as part of any package.