During the earliest phase of the COVID-19 shutdown, all major sporting events ceased their activities—except horseracing. Surely, several tracks had brief closures to accommodate public safety and to determine the proper procedures to resume racing activities. If a person wanted to see any sporting event that wasn't prerecorded, however, the only action was on the horserace track. Grandstands and betting kiosks were deserted, but sportsmen continued to keep pari-mutuel wagering alive through online and off-track betting (OTB).
As the unprecedented track seasons of 2020 wind down, with the fall meets still being held with restricted fan admission, those who oversee horseracing throughout the world are meeting to discuss what happened and how to shepherd racing forward in the coming year. During the first two weeks of October, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) will hold a series of virtual meetings in place the 54th regular in-person gathering in Paris.
Typically the IFHA has its annual sessions beginning immediately after the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the season-ending Grade I Thoroughbred race the French call "the greatest race in the world." With the coronavirus still a threat, however, all meetings of this racing oversight group will be happening over the Internet.
The major issues to be discussed, not surprisingly, all center around COVID-19 and its impact on horseracing. Four major panels of representatives will be convened virtually to discuss these currently relevant topics: the sustainability of horseracing among other sports in the face of the pandemic; how to adapt media to provide coverage and accessibility in light of COVID-19; proper working conditions during the pandemic; and how to prepare for racing after the pandemic has run its course.
The IFHA was founded to set global standards and foster an international community of horseracing in October 1967, in Paris. In a normal year, more than 50 nationalities would be represented in the meetings.
One of the greatly anticipated presenters is from Deloitte Consulting, an international company that advises many professional sports organizations—including the NBA, the US Tennis and Golf associations, and the US Olympic Committee—on how to maximize and sustain their media presence. Deloitte representative Pete Giorgio will be discussing his 2020 report on the impact of COVID-19 on international media entitled, "Games Without Fans."
Videos of the meetings will be posted on social media platforms as well as the IFHA's home website beginning October 5th.
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