The united front of a media rights deal covering all of Irish horse racing is no more after five smaller tracks rejected a proposal from the negotiating committee of the Association of Irish Racecourses for a continuation of the existing deal with Satellite Information Services and Racing TV.
The current deal runs to the end of 2023 and negotiation on a replacement has been going on for months with the incumbent granted the status of a preferred bidder as far back as last October.
Sligo, Kilbeggan, Limerick, Roscommon and Thurles have now written to the Minister for Agriculture, under whose remit the sport is run, to query legislation that insists on a single deal claiming it as an unconstitutional infringement of their rights.
It is believed they already have a counter offer on the table to go with Arena Leisure who operate a number of smaller tracks in the UK including Lingfield and Southwell All Weather tracks and who have a deal to show coverage on another paywall channel of Sky Sports Racing.
The money being talked about is €100,000 per fixture which is a material amount to a track where attendance on regular fixtures would more likely be in the hundreds rather than thousands.
The courses argue that Horse Racing Ireland favours its own tracks in the distribution of the money from the Racing TV deal.
The split echoes that which took place in British Racing when their racecourse took the decision to establish their own media company to broadcast the regular diet, away from the biggest race days that used to be shown on Channel 4 and the BBC but which then moved exclusively to ITV, and which are shown in Ireland on Virgin Media.
Meetings such as the Leopardstown Christmas and Dublin Racing Festival, Punchestown, Galway and at Fairyhouse and the Curragh would not be impacted by this deal and there is no strong indication of whether SIS and Racing TV would change the terms of the offer that has been recommended without the five tracks that now sit outside the main tent.
The 21 other racecourse did approve the deal at a meeting in Kildare yesterday and that now goes for ratification to the Board of Horse racing ireland this Friday, giving 48 hours for the Minister to react to the request to get involved or for more negotiation to take place between the two groups and their two potential media suitors.
“It’s a fantastic deal and I’m delighted for the 21 racecourses who have signed up to secure it today,” said Chair of the Association of Irish Racecourses and CEO of Punchestown, Conor O’Neill.
“I would like to thank the Board of AIR and our CEO Paul Hensey for their hard work and support. I would also like to especially thank our former CEO Paddy Walsh who has worked tirelessly on achieving the best possible deal for our members and the HRI Media Rights Committee whose commitment has been extraordinary throughout the entire process.”
“Although it’s disappointing that it was not approved by all, today is a very positive day for the future of Irish racing, let’s not take away from that. I look forward to continuing our partnership with SIS and RMG for the overwhelming majority of Irish Racecourses subject to the approval by the HRI Board on Friday.”