France gets Government green light to race on Monday

France gets Government green light to race on Monday


France clear to resume after tense day of talks with Macron government.

French racing will resume as planned on Monday at three tracks including Longchamp, but only after a tense 24 hours of negotiation to avert a potentially heartbreaking change of tack from the government.

France Galop president Edouard de Rothschild announced via Twitter in the early hours of Saturday morning that the green light had been given by President Emmanuel Macron for a resumption which, for most of Friday, had looked to be slipping out of reach.

In the tweet Rothschild thanked President Macron, his prime minister and minister of agriculture, as well as two key intermediaries, former presidential candidate Francois Bayrou and the mayor of Deauville, Philippe Augier.

Rothschild said: “This was a race I wanted to win more than any other. The return to racing has been accepted. Now let us show them that they were right!”

Rumours of a late challenge to the French government’s decision to allow a Monday resumption from an unnamed quarter had begun to circulate during Friday, leading France Galop and their trotting counterparts to issue a joint statement that evening, acknowledging that they had been involved in discussions with the state to ensure that Monday’s meetings at Longchamp, Compiegne and Toulouse can all proceed at their intended venues.  

While France Galop developed a series of backup plans in case of a need to do without their main tracks in Paris – the most serious centre of the coronavirus outbreak – the news this week that the police authorities had given the go ahead for racing in the capital appeared to remove one of the last remaining obstacles.

But at a meeting on Thursday evening of Macron’s Defence Council – a French version of the Whitehall Cobra committee – the subject of reopening racecourses in the first wave of “deconfinement” was raised and the president is reported to have vetoed the plan. 

Some French media reports suggest that certain key figures connected with professional football – which like all team sports is banned until September under the administration’s gradual scheme to reinstate parts of the French economy and society – may have lobbied the government to have a second look at racing, which is under different oversight to the vast majority of sport.

Whatever the source of Macron’s initial disquiet, his interior minister Christophe Castaner prepared to instruct the prefects of every French department to prevent the reopening of racecourses. 

But after a tense and frantic day of behind-the-scenes negotiation, Rothschild was able to break the news that Macron and his officials had accepted the original dossier for the resumption of racing and the threat to Monday’s meetings was over. – 

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