The Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) represents those who own and/or operate Ireland’s twenty-six racecourses nationwide. Throughout the pandemic, racecourse personnel scrambled to meet the demand of the ever-changing public health guidelines. They endeavoured to plan amid grave uncertainty and did everything in their power to keep key industry personnel safe and to keep our industry going.
During this time, the elephant in many a ‘zoom’ was whether or not people would come back racing in meaningful numbers when restrictions lifted? It’s safe to say that in any market, changes to consumer behaviour would be expected following such a long time away from the action. After all, fans have been consuming not just horse racing but all sport from their homes for a year and a half.
Before Christmas, AIR urged the racing public to please make the effort and go racing again when the time came and support Irish racecourses over the coming weeks and months. This call to action highlighted that it had been a tough time for racecourses who worked hard to do everything in their power to facilitate racing behind closed doors, then with various levels of restrictions and now, when most restrictions have been dropped, they needed your support.
Following recent race meetings like Goffs Thyestes Day at Gowran Park and the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, it is fair to say the racing public has well and truly stepped up and come out in huge numbers to show their support. It’s been fantastic to witness racegoers back at the track and really enjoying that unique feeling of watching racing on-site amid the buzz and the atmosphere that is synonymous with attending a race fixture in person, something that is simply unmissable for any racing fan!
Paddy Walsh, Chief Executive of AIR, said “The scenes at racecourses since restrictions have eased have been most heartening. It has shown that people feel safe to come back, which is a massive boost for management and their teams at racecourses nationwide. More than ever we need the support of the public to come racing and help us to create and hang on to that unique racecourse atmosphere that we have all been missing for the longest time.
“The scenes of packed enclosures, full stands and people enjoying the racing festivities in recent weeks have been most welcome, and a tremendous sign of better days to come at our 26 racecourses in the weeks and months ahead.”
In more good news for racing, Horse Racing Ireland recently released the 2021 industry statistics which show that as a whole the industry has bounced back from a gruelling 2020 with the majority of figures ahead of both the previous twelve months and the pre-pandemic 2019 figures.
The figures show that a record number of fixtures and races took place in 2021 and this was partly due to the growth in racehorse ownership and horses-in-training, which led to an increased demand for fixtures. The statistics also showed that on-course bookmakers recovered in 2021 as their turnover increased on the previous year.
Also evident in the statistics was the fact that Covid-19 continued to impact attendance and betting in 2021 however, for the first six months of the year racing was held behind closed doors so this was to be expected.
AIR express their sincere gratitude to their members and all key industry stakeholders and suppliers for their outstanding effort to keep the show on the road in 2021. AIR would also like to express their thanks to you, the racing public, for your support of Irish racecourses in recent weeks, it is appreciated by so many.
By Leo Powell