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The inside story on AIR

This week we are taking a closer look at the Association of Irish Racecourses, to understand a little more about AIR and the important role it plays in our industry.

The Association of Irish Racecourses has traditionally kept a low profile in the media. Instead, it pushes its members forward as best it can, while working hard behind the scenes on the issues that matter most to their membership. This they do all the time with professionalism, diligence and integrity.

Many who work in racing will have accreditation to permit them access to racecourses by way of their AIR cards. However, beyond that, their knowledge of the Association may be limited. With this in mind, and during a busy week at the Galway Races, AIR decided to dedicate this week’s column to the Association itself and the shared vision of its members for the future of Irish racing at their racecourses.

The mission statement of AIR is ‘to represent the interests of its members, those who own and/or operate Ireland’s 26 racecourses’. The Association represents its members to the highest of standards while promoting the collective interests of its united membership.

AIR operates under guiding principles which aim to uphold its reputation for fairness and to maintain the trust of its stakeholders. The Association works with other associations and bodies within the horse racing industry, with parallel industries and with third parties on behalf of its members to ensure they enjoy the benefits of the best possible collective outcome every time. An ethos of strong open communications with members is apparent, and active participation of all members is encouraged.

AIR has 26 member racecourses, overseen by its chairman Conor O’Neill, CEO Paddy Walsh and a board of directors. AIR has nine directors, each appointed for a three-year term, and they are appointed following a vote to ensure that those that make it to the board are the choice of the entire membership. The board of directors meets every six weeks or so, and additional ad-hoc meetings are called as required when topics arise that require urgent attention.

In addition to board meetings, all racecourse managers meet regularly to ensure unity of purpose and that all members’ concerns are heard, and support is
provided as appropriate. These meetings have proved very popular and most helpful for sharing knowledge, best practices and practical solutions at tracks nationwide.

The in person annual general meeting of AIR is set to take place in the coming weeks, with representatives from all tracks invited to attend. Typically, the AGM gathers directors of racecourses and members of their management teams to hear of the progress of the Association over the previous 12 months and what’s planned for the months ahead.

AIR interacts with representatives of other industry bodies with a view to developing initiatives to help the wider industry. The Association works closely with all stakeholders on behalf of its membership, ensuring that the best interests of their racecourses are served in all professional interactions.

Board level
In addition, AIR is represented at Horse Racing Ireland board level, chairs the media rights committee, and is represented on the committees that recommend the programme of racing and the fixtures that are to take place each year.

AIR will also interact, on behalf of their members, with other bodies outside the industry who have sporadic engagement with horse racing, such as Government bodies and committees, economic consultants, and many other groups.

The strategic plan of AIR prioritises the importance of keeping all racecourses united, maximising revenue-generating opportunities, enhanced communications, continuous development of racecourse standards, and a strong focus on sustainability.

To find out more about the Association and its work visit

By Leo Powell

Irish Field

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