A PRE-TAX loss of £12.8million for 2021 has been reported by Ascot, with finances affected by the Covid-19 pandemic for a second year.

The track sustained a loss of just £200,000 in 2020, with pandemic insurance cover, furlough and business rates relief helping to mitigate a year which saw paying crowds for just two racedays. Without support, a pre-tax loss of more than £31m would have been suffered.

However, 2021 proved a “challenging” year for the racecourse, with no pandemic insurance available and Covid-19 restrictions in place for part of the calendar.

Turnover rose by 113 per cent to £46.9m as crowds were gradually able to return to the racecourse, but this was more than 51 per cent lower than the 2019 level.

Six fixtures were held behind closed doors, with limited crowds allowed to attend Royal Ascot and the Summer Mile meeting in July before restrictions were lifted.

But the venue’s debt position was described as “stable”, with a standby loan facility of £20m available until 2023 arranged through the government’s coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CLBILS) undrawn.

Ascot’s chief executive officer Guy Henderson said: “The 2021 financial year was challenging for obvious reasons and so we are particularly pleased to have got through the pandemic with reduced debt and without needing to activate the standby government CLBILS loan facility. This has provided the business with a solid platform from which to invest in re-building out of it.

“I wish to thank and pay particular tribute to all our staff and commercial partners for their loyalty and dedication throughout the pandemic. This enabled us to stage Royal Ascot 2020 as the first major national sporting event behind closed doors and, on less than a month’s notice, to deliver Royal Ascot 2021 as part of the Government’s Events Research Programme.

“For 2022, we invested significantly in improving customer experience through reducing density, reconfiguring and redesigning the site and introducing new offerings for the first full-scale Royal meeting for three years.

“We welcomed a crowd of nearly 275,000 (down from the usual 300,000 as planned) and offered record prize money of £8.65m contested by world class horses from eight different nations.

“We look forward to the rest of year with excitement.”