Monday, 01 March 2021

Royal regatta set to return but with fewer spectators

File picture of Henley Royal Regatta

HENLEY Royal Regatta should take place again next summer after recovering from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The regatta committee says it could still hold the event across six days in July as it was intending to do this year. However, it admits this would be a challenge and can’t guarantee it because the global picture remains uncertain.

If the regatta goes ahead, there would be a “track and trace” system in operation and capacity could be reduced to allow social distancing measures.

Guest badges for 2020 were going to remain valid for 2021 but this has been scrapped because of the expected constraints.

In April, shortly after the first national lockdown forced the cancellation of this summer’s event, the committee wrote to members forecasting an operating loss of up to £900,000 based on monthly overhead costs and existing commitments. But in its latest update, it says that figure is down to just £198,000 after it followed a “conservative” investment strategy and postponed non-essential expenditure to offset that loss.

Regatta chairman Sir Steve Redgrave thanked members who had offered personal contributions to relieve the impact of cancellation.

He accepted some were “disappointed” not to get a refund of their 2020 subscription but this would have cost about £2 million and threatened the event’s survival.

Sir Steve said: “Alongside the work of our staff, our conservative investment strategy has protected our investments throughout this challenging period. Our current financial position is stable, due first and foremost to your support.

“Although the pandemic has been, and continues to be, a severe test, I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to ride out the storm and protect our future.

“While in recent days there has been positive news about vaccine development, the timing of a safe return to large-scale outdoor events remains uncertain, making planning for 2021 a challenge… [and] dependent on the status of government and public health guidelines.

“Our overriding priority will continue to be the health and safety of all of our stakeholders, in particular our members, competitors, guests, and staff.

“We’re working closely with the relevant government and public health authorities, alongside the rest of the sports industry, to understand how best to meet the challenges presented.

“If the regatta can be staged in 2021, the look and feel of the Stewards’ Enclosure may be very different. Significant investment will be required to put in place the processes required to operate a ‘Track & Trace’ system, as well as other necessary measures. Although staging a six-day event remains our central planning scenario, it also remains a possibility that we will not be able to do so.

“I wholeheartedly wish I could confidently give you concrete details for the 2021 regatta but I must ask for your continued patience and will keep you informed through regular email.

“I do hope we can count on your continued support to protect the regatta for many more years to come and that we will be in a healthy position to provide a warm welcome to you and your guests next year.”

The regatta’s financial statements now show a retained profit of £243,000 arising mostly from the change in its investments’ market value since October last year, although this is not yet realised in cash terms and is subject to market fluctuations.

New additions to the event, which previously lasted five days, will include the Island Challenge Cup for women’s student eights and two others for women’s club eights and junior women’s eights.

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