BERGSÅKER, Sweden — Rikard Skoglund modifications into his blue-and-white silks in his automobile, gathers his helmet and whip, then heads to the observe for an additional night of horse racing.
Sweden’s No. 1 horse driver remains to be working throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
In truth, he’s by no means been in additional demand.
Swedish trotting, or harness racing, is one among solely a handful of sports activities in Europe to have persevered by means of the pandemic whereas different competitions — skilled or newbie — shut down throughout the continent.
That’s not simply excellent news for the 40,000 folks working within the equestrian sector in Sweden. It’s one thing of a savior for betting firms and gamblers all over the world.
“Our prize cash comes from betting cash,” Skoglund advised The Related Press earlier than the primary race of a gathering at Bergsåker racecourse close to the east coast of Sweden. “So now the entire world is betting on Swedish harness racing, it’s an enormous alternative for us.”
Hans Lord Skarplöth, chief government of the betting agency ATG that makes a speciality of horse racing in Sweden, advised the AP that worldwide playing on Swedish races is up round 600 % because the center of March.
Jockeys and horse drivers on this often-overlooked a part of the world would possibly by no means have this publicity and incomes potential once more.
“In fact it impacts us that we will’t have the general public in to look at, however it’s extra essential for us to have the core enterprise (working),” mentioned Maria Croon, CEO of Swedish Trotting. “We aren’t attempting to capitalize, simply to proceed with as much less results as potential.”
Sweden has been one thing of an outlier throughout the pandemic as a result of the federal government’s restrictions aren’t as tight as most different international locations. So its horse racing trade has been allowed to remain open for enterprise, although suggestions and directives are in place to reduce the chance for employees.
No spectators are allowed, with even house owners of horses prevented from being on the observe for races that are nationally televised. Trainers and jockeys are beneficial to vary garments of their automobile, and social distancing is suggested.
On the assembly in Bergsåker, hand disinfectants had been out there and there have been indicators across the oval observe telling these current to maintain two meters (six ft) from one another. Some jockeys and drivers wore mouth coverings. Folks sat aside in a small, wood stand midway down one aspect of the observe.
Croon mentioned she wasn’t conscious of any reported virus instances in Swedish horse racing.
“I’m extra apprehensive after I go into city or to a store,” Skoglund mentioned. “When you go to the grocery store, it’s rather more harmful than driving horses.”
Horse racing has continued with out spectators in elements of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and in addition in some American states. But it surely was delivered to a halt within the sport’s main racing international locations in Europe, like Britain, Eire and France.
The Swedish racing market has proved to be very important for the multibillion-dollar sports activities playing trade, particularly in European time zones.
“That is, after all, good for ATG revenues however much more essential for the horse industries,” Skarplöth mentioned. “Due to Swedish horse racing, many of those firms nonetheless might have some earnings by providing Swedish horse racing to their prospects.”
Look at a betting web site, and it’s slim pickings elsewhere for sports activities in Europe. There’s soccer in Belarus and Turkmenistan, whereas Russia is staging desk tennis, volleyball and hockey video games.
The usual of those competitions is not excessive. The gamers participating in live-streamed desk tennis from the Liga Professional group are sometimes ranked outdoors the highest 500 by the Russian Desk Tennis Federation, which is itself not one of many world leaders. But their matches have turn out to be a staple for the world’s on-line bookmakers.
Issues might change quickly, after all. Some European soccer leagues are beginning to crank again up and play might resume on the finish of this month. Horse racing in France is planning to restart subsequent week.
Within the meantime, Swedish trotting is having fun with its unlikely place within the highlight.
“It’s been actually enjoyable,” Skoglund mentioned, “to point out the world our superb harness racing.”
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