All eyes will be on new security measures put in place at Royal Ascot this weekend to tackle recent bouts of brawling and anti-social behavior.
Previous race meetings this year have been marred by antisocial behavior reportedly fueled by alcohol and drug abuse during events. This year, apart from maintaining current security measures, organizers are also introducing new practices in efforts to quell the rising violence.
Current security measures
As it stands, levels of security are high following an outbreak of brawls during meets at both Ascot and Cheltenham. A host of security measures have been introduced in recent years including drug amnesty boxes and the use of sniffer dogs. Ascot has been severely affected by fighting that has taken place at several races this season.
With incidents now going viral online, it is vitally important to avoid any negative coverage during or after the week-long event. Concerns are even higher given the popularity of Royal Ascot compared to the quiet days during which previous negative coverage has been generated so far this year.
Addressing the issue, Ascot’s chief executive, Guy Henderson, said: “This year we will continue proactively to address these challenges with an increased specialist security team, supported by more visible stewarding around the bar and other areas to pre-empt incidents arising from excess alcohol consumption or other anti-social behavior.”
Punters to be breathalyzed
Organizers are also introducing new measures to combat alcohol abuse during the event. Until now, so-called beer hawkers have been selling beer to racegoers in amongst the crowd. From now on, this practice is to be banned throughout the meet in the hope of making it less easy to get hold of alcohol.
This move was announced alongside news that punters may be breathalyzed on the way into the event. This comes as those attending races make a day of the event, starting to drink long before they arrive at the racecourse. It is unclear what level of alcoholization will lead to entry being refused, but organizers have said that those who show signs of inebriation on arrival will be turned away.
BBC racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght has said of the new measures: “This list of tough measures from Ascot seems to demonstrate how concerned officials are: to threaten to breathalyze people about whom they’re suspicious on the way in is a radical move, and, again with alcohol consumption in mind, the stopping of ‘hawkers’ who sell beer within the crowds looks significant.”
Beyond the racecourse at Ascot itself
With more than 300,000 people expected to attend the event over the week, the police have issued a statement regarding security around the event too. Assistant Chief Constable David Hardcastle said: “We are working closely with our partners to protect the public, and as such, you should go about your day as normal and enjoy this prestigious event. The public provides our additional eyes and ears, and I ask them to support my officers and racecourse security by remaining vigilant, keeping their belongings with them and reporting anything suspicious or unusual to staff or by calling 101.”
The local police force will be working with the community to ensure the event goes by without a glitch. The enhanced security measures within the venue should mean there is less disruption when racegoers leave the event in the early evening too, which is essential for the meet’s local reputation.
However, as colleague Mark Richards highlights, with the World Cup also in action the plans for a day at the races might well be abandoned for a night at the football, either way, the bookies will be overjoyed.