Horse Racing Ireland is to undertake a national advertising campaign in 2020 aimed at broadening interest in the sport.
This was one of the key elements of focus to emerge from the 2020 budget approved at a board meeting on The Curragh earlier this week.
Prizemoney, integrity and equine welfare, industry training and education are alos highlighted as importantat areas for spending.
Prizemoney will rise by €1.7 million, to a figure of €68 million, with some of the additional spend attributable to seven extra race meetings in 2020. These fixtures will provide increased opportunities for horses at all levels. Previously committed prizemoney increases will also be delivered at key festivals.
A key priority for 2020 will be to work closely with the Government and industry stakeholders to advance the redevelopment of a state-of-the-art Irish Equine Centre in Johnstown, County Kildare.
With no increase to the Horse & Greyhound Racing Fund for 2020, HRI is not budgeting for any new racecourse capital developments to commence. Existing projects will be completed which will allow tracks to take stock of future development plans.
Prizemoney Levels and Distribution
HRI will increase prizemoney in Ireland by €1.7 million next year to €68 million in 2020. In a competitive international environment, it is important for Ireland to offer prize money levels which will continue to attract owners to keep horses in training in Ireland.
Prizemoney increases committed to key festivals and major races will account for some of that increase, as will seven extra fixtures in 2020.
€500,000 will once again be distributed among 20 Grade 2 and Grade 3 racecourses to be used to further enhance the prizemoney around their feature races, and help market their racedays in their local communities. This initiative has been of particular benefit to the smaller racecourses in helping to promote their racedays and will continue to enhance values in races which are accessible to the majority of the horse population.
Integrity Services and Equine Welfare
Integrity & Equine Welfare spend in 2020 will be in excess of €15.5m which includes integrity support costs of €9.2m (€9.4m in 2019) for IHRB Integrity running costs, anti-doping, EFU & Integrity Security.
There will be an increased investment (€200,000) into the promotion of Equine Welfare in 2020, including a new dedicated Equine Welfare function within Horse Racing Ireland.
Horse Racing Ireland will continue to support the Irish Horse Welfare Trust and the Irish Equine Centre through both HRI and Foal Levy-funded grant aid.
Broadening interest and appeal of racing
Working with racecourses, HRI will conduct a nationwide radio, TV and digital advertising campaign in 2020, following on from a return to TV advertising for the first time in over 10 years in 2019. The roll-out of free Wi-Fi at all racecourses, which commenced in 2018, is almost complete. There will be a reduction of 50% (€180,000), applied to the Racecourse Marketing Support grants for 2020.
Industry Training and Education
A key focus of the budget is ensuring that educational and training interventions in the racing and breeding industry are relevant, fit for purpose, nationally accessible and supporting both the equine and people welfare agenda.
On foot of industry feedback, HRI will increase the funding allocation to RACE for its Exercise Rider Programme to facilitate increasing the length of this programme from 6 weeks to 12 weeks.
In order to increase geographical support for skills development of work riders, a mobile training unit, including simulator, will be added to the suite of services offered by RACE.
With active owners up in 2019, investment has once again been committed to the recruitment and retention of owners in Ireland in 2020, with further funding for the trainer marketing support scheme, owner racecourse days, the Trainer Open Morning, and continued development of a CRM system.
Extra promotional activity in 2020 will include podcasts, roadshows and a new owners members club. The aim is to increase the pool of owners for all levels of the industry, building on the strong growth in recent years.
Grants of €1.32 million and €1.095 million were approved for the Irish Equine Centre and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing respectively, both of which also receive funds from the Thoroughbred Foal Levy (€900,000 and €450,000).
There will be no change to funding levels in point-to-points for 2020. Prizemoney and administration grants to Hunts will remain at 2019 levels.
The HRI Board has agreed that Tipperary is the preferred location for a second All Weather Track (AWT). However, with no funding in place at present to progress the project, it was agreed that no formal approval can be given at this stage and the plan will need to be submitted for re-consideration by HRI’s Evaluation Committee once HRI capital grant aid is available and Tipperary Racecourse has sourced their required funding, with options to be explored by Tipperary in this regard. If a funded proposal has not been approved by HRI by the end of June 2021, then Tipperary’s status as the preferred location will cease and fresh applications for a second AWT may be sought from other potential venues at that point.
“The 2020 budget for the industry is extremely tight and while we have been able to fund the increased fixture list, there have been cutbacks or standstill situations in other areas,” said Brian Kavanagh, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland.
“The basis for funding the industry in the future lies in the increased yield which is now being generated from betting tax which is expected to generate close to €100m in revenue this year.”
“The HRI board has aligned its spend in 2020 with its strategic priorities for the industry. However, the reality is that a number of important capital projects such as the Irish Equine Centre redevelopment, the development of a second All-Weather Track and a new racecourse capital development scheme, are on hold due to the lack of certainty around the longer-term funding of the industry.”
“The Government has been clear that Budget 2020 was a standstill budget, written under the threat of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. The recent general election result in the United Kingdom at least removes some uncertainty in that regard and should allow us to move on to discuss the future trade relationship and make plans accordingly.”
“In these circumstances, it is vital that the interests of the racing and breeding industry, which exports over 60% of its annual output, are protected and the HRI budget for 2020 aims to do that.”