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Coronavirus: North West 200 organisers confirm postponement in £12m blow to Northern Ireland economy


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Over 100,000 people flock to the North West every year.

Over 100,000 people flock to the North West every year.

Over 100,000 people flock to the North West every year.

The postponement of the North West 200 races is set to leave a £12m hole in the local economy.

Official confirmation has now been given from race organisers that the 2020 event has become the latest sporting event to fall victim to the coronavirus.

Over 100,000 spectators each year attend the NW200, billed as Ireland's largest outdoor sporting event, providing a spike for the north coast economy.

A potential date for any rescheduling is as yet unknown.

"Given the current converns and restrictions around the Coronavirus public health crisis, the organisers of the 2020 fonaCAB and Nicholl Oils North West 200 will postpone the May 10-16 Race Week," read a statement.

"Over the past two weeks we have been in constant contact with government and public health officials, representatives of Causeway Coast and Glens Council, and the sport's governing body, the MCUI (UC).

"Today's decision has been based upon the advice and guidance received. Our paramount desire is to act responsibly and do all we can to protect everyone from the threat posed by the virus.

"We enjoy the full support of loyal sponsors and stakeholders in making this decision but apologise for any inconvenience it has caused to them, our competitors, volunteers and race fans."

The decision follows hot on the heels of the cancellation of the Isle of Man TT and the postponement of both the Cookstown 100 and Tandragee 100 races.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said on Monday evening that the North West 200 organisers had no option other than to postpone the event, regardless of the impact on the economy.

“The announcement by the government to prohibit large gatherings really means that in the interests of public safety it is just not feasible for an event, that attracts up to 100,000 visitors and spectators, to proceed as planned," said Mr Paisley.

“This is not the first time the event has faced such challenges. During the foot and mouth crisis the race was cancelled and during one year a bomb scare seriously disrupted racing.

“The organisers of the race always put NI first and have the interests of Northern Ireland at heart. I know this will be a difficult decision but I can only support the Coleraine and District club for showing leadership.

“This will be a blow to the local community. In fact the local economy stands to lose £12 million in turnover as a result and this will be impossible to replace. I’ve already asked the government to provide rate and vat relief as well as other measures to help the local economy.”

In rugby, Ulster's European Champions Cup quarter-final tie in Toulouse, scheduled for April 5, was officially postponed on Monday evening.

The European Professional Club Rugby are now looking into alternative dates for the knockout stages of their two continental competitions, insisting they will do everything they can to complete the European rugby season.

Elsewhere, British racing’s marquee race, the Grand National at Aintree, was called off after serious discussions between the all the relevant stakeholders.

Renowned as the world’s greatest steeplechase and the biggest gambling event on the racing calendar, this year’s race — the culmination of three days of action on Merseyside — had been due to see Tiger Roll bid to join Red Rum as the only three-time winner.

A statement from JCR read: “Following the government’s new public health guidance regarding avoiding social contact and stopping non-essential travel, and its statement that emergency services are withdrawn from supporting mass gatherings from tomorrow, the Jockey Club have decided that it is no longer appropriate to stage the event.

“Jockey Club Racecourses, which runs Aintree and several of the UK’s leading racecourses, had been assessing the feasibility of running the world’s most famous steeplechase behind closed doors with minimal staff on site, but the latest government information on the measures needed to contain the virus have led us to believe this is no longer a viable consideration.”

Senior Jockey Club steward Sandy Dudgeon said: “The Randox Health Grand National Festival was just three weeks away, and it’s very clear to us it will not be possible for the event to take place. Public health must come first.”

Belfast Telegraph